Matthew McCurdy

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Few studies examine the choice to plead out or go to trial, or the decision to hand down a prison sentence especially in the context of race and drug offense. This study used logistic regression to analyze data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. It explored the impact these characteristics have on whether a defendant goes to trial or takes a plea and the impact they have on whether a defendant receives a prison sentence at the federal level. The study found that Hispanic drug offenders are significantly more likely to go to trial than to take a plea and have a dramatically higher chance of receiving a prison sentence. The odds of black defendants going to trial are also higher than for white defendants. There are surprising findings that run counter to existing research. For example, being black did not impact the imposition of a prison sentence. This study sheds light on various factors impacting these outcomes at the federal level but underscores the need for future research.

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