« Vera Institute reports on "People in Jail and Prison in 2020" and finds US total now well below two million | Main | Reviewing Prez Trump's clemency work from a number of perspectives »

January 27, 2021

"Prosecuting Misdemeanors"

The title of this post is the title of this book chapter authored by Jenny Roberts now available via SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

Although violent crime gets the most media, public, and legislative attention in the United States, misdemeanors make up approximately 75 percent of all criminal court cases, with more than 13 million new misdemeanor cases filed each year.  This chapter discusses the role of prosecutors in the misdemeanor system.  First, it addresses prosecutorial discretion and mass misdemeanor criminalization.  Prosecutors, with near-unfettered discretionary power, are characterized as the most powerful actors in criminal cases.  Yet often, prosecutors fail to properly exercise their discretion in low-level cases or are completely absent from the charging and sometimes even the adjudicatory processes.  This is particularly problematic in misdemeanor cases, where informed prosecutorial decision-making is critical given the enormous volume of arrests and structural and institutional realities that weaken the role of other lower court actors.  Proper exercise of discretion is also critical given well-documented racial disparities in the misdemeanor realm and the need to mitigate the myriad disproportionate effects of the ever-growing number of collateral consequences that flow from even a minor criminal record.

Second, the chapter examines the misdemeanor prosecutor’s role at key stages: charging, bail, plea bargaining, sentencing, expungement, and post-conviction innocence claims. The chapter draws on examples of prosecutorial practice as well as theoretical and empirical research about prosecutorial discretion.  Some recently elected so-called progressive prosecutors have already implemented significant promised changes.  Although implementation of such reforms is nascent, time will tell whether a newly attentive electorate and a fresh prosecutorial approach will begin to roll back the extreme overuse and disproportionate impact of misdemeanor prosecutions in the United States.

January 27, 2021 at 12:40 PM | Permalink


Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB