Opening Pandora’s Box: How Does Defendant Race Influence Plea Bargaining? Article

Kutateladze, BL, Andiloro, NR, Johnson, BD. (2016). Opening Pandora’s Box: How Does Defendant Race Influence Plea Bargaining? . JUSTICE QUARTERLY, 33(3), 398-426. 10.1080/07418825.2014.915340

cited authors

  • Kutateladze, BL; Andiloro, NR; Johnson, BD


  • Minority overrepresentation in the criminal justice system has long been an important topic of research and policy debate. In New York City, recent changes in the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the controversy around police stop-and-frisk practices have placed an even greater emphasis on the need for studying the possible impact of defendants’ race and ethnicity on criminal justice outcomes. Relatively little contemporary research, though, examines plea-bargaining outcomes. Using unique data on misdemeanor marijuana cases, this study examines the impact of defendants’ race on prosecutors’ decisions to make (a) plea offers for a lesser charge and (b) sentence offers for non-custodial punishments. Preliminary findings indicated that black defendants were less likely to receive reduced charge offers, and both black and Latino defendants were more likely to receive custodial sentence offers. However, these disparities were largely explained by legal factors, evidence, arrest circumstances, and court actor characteristics, though black defendants were still more likely to receive custodial sentence offers after including these controls. No differences were found between white and Asian defendants. Implications for research and prosecutorial practices are discussed.

publication date

  • April 15, 2016

published in

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 398

end page

  • 426


  • 33


  • 3