Sentencing Decisions Around Quantity Thresholds: Theory and Experiment

46 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2021 Last revised: 23 Sep 2021

See all articles by Jakub Drápal

Jakub Drápal

Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Law

Michal Šoltés

Charles University in Prague - CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute); Charles University in Prague - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 8, 2021

Abstract

We study the implications of a structure of criminal codes on sentencing decisions. To limit sentencing disparities, offenses are typically divided into subsections with specific sentencing ranges. The classification into corresponding subsections often depends on exceeding a given quantity threshold, such as drug amount. We study the consequences of these quantity thresholds on sentencing decisions and argue that the threshold effect can be decomposed into two opposing mechanisms: the severity mechanism and the reference one. An experiment with Czech prosecutors shows that thresholds cause an enormous increase in harshness in sentencing, leading to sentencing disparities. We further introduce empirical measures of (in)justice and quantify the consequences of quantity thresholds on the probability of imposing a just sentence.

Keywords: sentencing, quantity threshold, sentencing disparities, experiment, prosecutors

Suggested Citation

Drápal, Jakub and Šoltés, Michal, Sentencing Decisions Around Quantity Thresholds: Theory and Experiment (June 8, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3862637 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3862637

Jakub Drápal

Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Law ( email )

Prague
Czech Republic

Michal Šoltés (Contact Author)

Charles University in Prague - CERGE-EI (Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute) ( email )

P.O. Box 882
7 Politickych veznu
Prague 1, 111 21
Czech Republic

Charles University in Prague - Department of Economics ( email )

nam. Curieovych 7
Prague 1, 11640
Czech Republic

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