U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Time Penalty: Examining the Relationship Between Time to Conviction and Trial vs. Plea Disparities in Sentencing

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 29 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2012 Pages: 829-857
Mindy S. Bradley-Engen; Rodney L. Engen; Chris Shields; Kelly R. Damphousse; Brent L. Smith
Date Published
December 2012
29 pages
This study examined the timing of guilty pleas specifically or to disentangle time as a dimension of case processing from the mode of convention.
Although studies of sentencing routinely find that defendants who plead guilty receive relatively lenient sentences compared with similarly situated defendants convicted by trial, one has yet to fully understand the role of "mode of conviction" in the sentencing process. In particular, little is known about how the size of the disparity between guilty pleas and trial convictions may depend upon time in case processing, or the timing of pleas; that is, when during the process defendants plead guilty. This is a considerable issue, as "time" often is central to explanations given for plea-trial disparities. The current study examines this central, yet seldom empirically captured, dimension of the sentencing process. Using information gathered in an ancillary data collection effort operated under the supervision of the American Terrorism Study, the authors differentiate between the mode of conviction and time to conviction and explore the role of "time" in sentence severity, especially with regard to the plea-trial disparity. While consisting of defendants identified in connection with terrorism investigations, and sentenced in Federal courts, this study takes advantages of a unique opportunity to isolate the effects of time from the mode of disposition and to explore time correlates of sentencing outcomes. In doing so, the authors raise important questions about the multiple ways in which time and mode of conviction may affect sentencing more generally and contribute to the larger theoretical discussions of how punishment decisions are made. Abstract published by arrangement with Taylor and Francis.