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Publication Prosecution of Felony Arrests, 1986

Barbara Boland, Catherine H. Conly, Lynn Warner, Ronald Sones, William Martin, Abt Associates

June 1, 1989    NCJ 113248

The primary data source was computerized management information systems used by prosecutors, courts, or other criminal justice agencies to track individual defendants from arrest or court filing until final disposition and sentence. Data indicate that 54 of every 100 adult felony arrests will result in a conviction for either a felony or a misdemeanor. Of the 54 arrests, 30 will lead to a sentence of incarceration. Of the 46 arrests that do not result in a conviction, 22 will be rejected for prosecution at screening before court charges are filed and 18 will be dismissed in court. For every 100 felony arrests disposed of in the felony court, 13 are dismissed, 4 are diverted or referred, 72 result in a guilty plea, and 11 go to trial. At screening, the prosecutor may decide to decline a felony arrest for prosecution, file misdemeanor charges, or file the arrest as a felony. Once cases reach the felony court, relatively few are dismissed; most end in a guilty plea or trial. In most jurisdictions, about half of all felony arrests are dropped at some point in the disposition process and about half will result in conviction. Of all convictions resulting from felony arrests, 56 percent lead to a sentence of incarceration and 23 percent to incarceration of more than 1 year. Where felony cases are convicted, in the lower court or the felony court, has important implications for sentence severity. The time from arrest to final court disposition varies substantially across jurisdictions. Trials require the longest disposition time, and disposition patterns by demographic characteristics are similar across jurisdictions. Appendixes contain detailed statistical data on the survey results. 10 tables, 2 figures.

Part of the Prosecutors in State Courts Series

Full report (PDF)

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