Judicial Bond-Setting Behavior: The Perceived Nature of the Crime May Matter More than How Serious it is
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol 20(4), Nov 2014, 411-420
Posted: 14 Dec 2015
Date Written: November 1, 2014
Whether a criminal defendant will be released on bail or held in jail pretrial is one of the first decisions made in a criminal prosecution. This study examined whether a certain group of defendants is subject to the setting of higher bonds by virtue of the subjectively perceived nature of the offense with which the defendants are charged. We specifically tested whether, despite lower overall rearrest rates, judges are imposing higher bonds on defendants charged with a sex offense than on defendants charged with a nonsex offense of equal statutory offense level. Results showed a statistically significant difference in the bond rates between sex offenders and nonsex offenders, with the mean sex offense bond being set approximately $30,000 higher than the mean nonsex offense bond, despite controlling for level of offense, sex of the defendant, and judge setting the bond amount. Given the high costs of pretrial detention to both the defendant and the state, the utility of empirically based bond setting is discussed.
Keywords: bond, judicial decision-making, sex offenders, criminal adjudication
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