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Prosecutorial Discretion and Plea Bargaining in Federal Criminal Courts in the United States, 1983-1990

Resource Type
Dataset : administrative records data
  • United States Sentencing Commission
Other Title
  • Archival Version (Subtitle)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics
Free Keywords
case dismissal; case processing; court cases; courts; disposition (legal); guilty pleas; plea negotiations; pleas; policies and procedures; prosecution; sentencing
  • Abstract

    The primary purpose of this data collection was to study whether prosecutorial behavior was affected by the implementation of federal criminal sentencing guidelines in 1987. Monthly time series data were constructed on a number of prosecutorial outcomes, representing either discrete decision steps in the processing of criminal cases or the characteristics of cases that passed through the system. Variables include disposition year and month, number of matters initiated, number of cases filed, declined, and dismissed, number of convictions by trial, by jury, and by bench trial, number of guilty pleas, ratio of guilty pleas to cases resolved, and ratio of trials to cases resolved. The collection also provides a series of dichotomous variables to assess the impact of various events on prosecutorial outcomes over time. These events include the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 (effective November 1986), implementation of the sentencing guidelines (November 1987), Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 (November 1988), United States Supreme Court's decision in the Minstretta case affirming the constitutionality of the sentencing guidelines (January 1989), and Attorney General Thornburgh's memo outlining Justice Department policy on charging and prosecution (March 1989).
  • Table of Contents


    • DS1: Dataset
Temporal Coverage
  • 1983-07 / 1990-08
    Time period: 1983-07--1990-08
Geographic Coverage
  • United States
Sampled Universe
All federal criminal cases from 1983 to 1990 contained in the Federal Probation Sentencing and Supervision Information System (FPSSIS) of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.
Collection Mode
  • (1) The codebook for this collection also documents IMPACT OF SENTENCING GUIDELINES ON THE USE OF INCARCERATION IN FEDERAL CRIMINAL COURTS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1984-1990 (ICPSR 9845). (2) The codebook is provided as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided through the ICPSR Website on the Internet.

2000-06-05 SAS and SPSS data definition statements and a PDF version of the codebook have been added to this collection. Funding insitution(s): United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
This version of the study is no longer available on the web. If you need to acquire this version of the data, you have to contact ICPSR User Support (
Alternative Identifiers
  • 9844 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)
  • Is previous version of
    DOI: 10.3886/ICPSR09844.v1
  • (author unknown). The Federal Sentencing Guidelines: A Report on the Operations of the Guidelines System and Short-term Impacts on Disparity in Sentencing, Use of Incarceration, and Prosecutorial Discretion and Plea Bargaining, vol. 2. Washington, DC: United States Sentencing Commission. 1991.

Update Metadata: 2015-08-05 | Issue Number: 6 | Registration Date: 2015-06-15

United States Sentencing Commission (1993): Prosecutorial Discretion and Plea Bargaining in Federal Criminal Courts in the United States, 1983-1990. Archival Version. Version: v0. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.