Does the Type of Criminal Defense Counsel Affect Case Outcomes? A Natural Experiment in Taiwan
40 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2008 Last revised: 30 Jun 2011
Date Written: 2008
Taiwan's large-scale legal reform in 2003 provides an excellent natural experiment-like setting for empirical investigation to many issues related to legal procedures and practices. Using trial data from 2004 to 2007, we test whether there has been a systematic difference in trial outcomes between criminal defendants with different types of defense counsel, and examine the policy implications on issues related to adequate legal representation of indigent defendants. Our study finds that defendants who hire their own legal counsels do fare better: they are less likely to be convicted and, when they are, receive lighter punishment. Moreover, even among those who do not retain counsels, there is also a difference in trial outcomes: those represented by public defenders are more likely to be convicted than those represented by assigned counsels, but once convicted the former receive less severe punishment. Our study suggests that public defenders more often use a tactic during trial that encourages the defendants to confess to the crime in exchange for more lenient punishment.
Keywords: criminal justice system, indigent defense system, public defender
JEL Classification: K14, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation