Faculty Research Lightning Talks


What Drives Prosecutors’ Decisions to File Charges in Domestic Violence Cases?

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Shelly Wagers


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Objective: Little attention has been paid to domestic violence (DV) and courtroom practices, especially prosecutorial decision making. Although the prosecutor’s filing decision is important to keeping DV victims safe, there is little research examining prosecutorial filing decisions in DV cases. This study used focal concerns as a theoretical framework to explore which legal and extra-legal factors impact prosecutorial filing decisions in DV cases. The study utilized data collected from 731 misdemeanor and felony DV cases in Pinellas County Florida between January 2017 – December 2018. Two binomial logistic regression models were used to predict the likelihood a DV case would be filed on any charge, filed on a DV specific charge or not filed. Findings suggest that factors impacting this decision vary based upon case severity (i.e. misdemeanor, felony). A weapon present decreased the filing likelihood for misdemeanor cases but victim requests not to prosecute and a public attorney decreased filing likelihood for felonies. The prosecutor’s decision to file charges is a powerful tool to keep victims safe and should be based on legal facts and risk of future harm, but here these factors had little to no impact on this decision.

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