Predictive Prosecution

40 Pages Posted: 9 May 2016 Last revised: 23 Nov 2016

See all articles by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

American University Washington College of Law; University of the District of Columbia - David A. Clarke School of Law

Date Written: May 9, 2016


Police in major metropolitan areas now use “predictive policing” technologies to identify and deter crime. The early successes of predictive policing have led a few prosecutor’s offices to adopt quasi-“predictive prosecution” strategies. Predictive prosecution involves the identification and targeting of suspects deemed most at risk for future serious criminal activity, and then the use of that information to shape bail determinations, charging decisions, and sentencing arguments. This type of “Moneyball” prosecution has begun in New York City and Chicago, and this essay addresses the promise and peril of this new technology.

This essay for the Wake Forest Law Review’s Symposium on “Implementing De-Incarceration Strategies: Policies and Practices to Reduce Crime and Mass Incarceration” addresses the emergence of predictive prosecution strategies. It suggests preliminary questions that prosecutors should ask before adopting a predictive prosecution system and examines how predictive prosecution might impact prosecutorial decision-making, prosecutorial role, and crime suppression priorities.

Keywords: predictive policing, predictive prosecution, prosecution, prosecutor, police, heat list, intelligence led prosecution

Suggested Citation

Ferguson, Andrew Guthrie, Predictive Prosecution (May 9, 2016). Wake Forest Law Review, Symposium 2016, Available at SSRN:

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson (Contact Author)

American University Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

University of the District of Columbia - David A. Clarke School of Law ( email )

4200 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
United States

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