The Impact of Criminal Defendants’ Opioid Use Disorder on Judges’ Sentencing Recommendations

Journal for Advancing Justice Vol. 2, p. 55 - 70, 2019

Posted: 9 Jun 2020

See all articles by Alisha Desai

Alisha Desai

affiliation not provided to SSRN

David DeMatteo

Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law

Kirk Heilbrun

Drexel University

John Rotrosen

New York University (NYU) - Grossman School of Medicine

Date Written: July 2019

Abstract

Individuals with substance use disorder continue to be disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. This trend is particularly pronounced among those with opioid use disorder (OUD). Given the rising rates of opioid use among arrestees specifically, this study examined the impact of a defendant’s reported OUD on sentencing outcomes following a robbery conviction. United States federal and state criminal court judges (N = 67) provided sentencing recommendations and generated perceptions of a hypothetical defendant with:

(1) reported heroin use,

(2) reported prescription pain reliever use, or

(3) no reported OUD.

Analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed revealed that a criminal defendant with either of the OUD diagnoses was viewed as more likely to reoffend and less capable of logical reasoning than a defendant with no reported history of OUD. These findings suggest that defense attorneys may more effectively support clients with OUD by introducing the defendant’s diagnosis during sentencing, with a focus on the benefits of rehabilitation and on addressing judges’ concerns regarding recidivism. Additionally, ongoing research efforts to identify empirically supported treatment that targets criminogenic risk and relapse may offer further support.

Keywords: Criminal Justice, Substance Use Disorder, Opioid Use, Rehabilitation, Recidivism

Suggested Citation

Desai, Alisha and DeMatteo, David and Heilbrun, Kirk and Rotrosen, John, The Impact of Criminal Defendants’ Opioid Use Disorder on Judges’ Sentencing Recommendations (July 2019). Journal for Advancing Justice Vol. 2, p. 55 - 70, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3600393

Alisha Desai

affiliation not provided to SSRN

David DeMatteo (Contact Author)

Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law ( email )

3320 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Kirk Heilbrun

Drexel University ( email )

3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

John Rotrosen

New York University (NYU) - Grossman School of Medicine

550 First Ave.
VZ30, Office 626
New York, NY 10016
United States

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