Prof Nick Petersen1, Prof Marisa Omori1
1University of Miami, Coral Gables, US
Although misdemeanors make up the bulk of criminal cases in the United States, the majority of research on court decision-making examines felony sentencing. In contrast to felony courts, lower-level ones are characterized by higher case volumes and increased reliance on informal sanctions, which likely contribute to greater racial-ethnic disparities. To assess this possibility we examine pretrial detention and case processing outcomes for misdemeanants in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Utilizing temporal (detention time) and monetary (bond amount) measures of pretrial detention, we assess whether and to what extent there are racial-ethnic disparities in formal and informal sanctions facing misdemeanants. Results indicate that Black defendants, especially Black Latinx defendants, face greater informal sanctions (longer detention and higher bond amounts), are more likely to be convicted, and experience more severe formal sanctions than White non-Latinx defendants do. These findings complicate Feeley’s (1979) argument about low-level cases, revealing that Black defendants are punished by both the court process and formal sanctions. In this way, “the process is the punishment” for low-level White and non-White defendants, while the punishment is also the punishment for Black defendants.
Bio to come