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Case Dismissed: Police Discretion and Racial Differences in Dismissals of Felony Charges


  • Jahn K. Hakes


Prior research has produced conflicting evidence of racial profiling during traffic stops. We instead analyze rates of case dismissal against felony arrestees by race. Superficial bias based on "unobservables" should be reduced because of the evidentiary requirements and nonnegligible costs of filing charges. Nonetheless, using data from over 58,000 US felony cases from 1990 to 1998, our probit analysis finds higher rates of dismissals for blacks for the subset of crimes that rely on police to make snap judgments. This suggests there may be more aggressive policing of blacks in these situations. Case dismissal rates are also elevated for both whites and blacks when blacks are underrepresented on local police forces. Copyright 2008, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Jahn K. Hakes, 2008. "Case Dismissed: Police Discretion and Racial Differences in Dismissals of Felony Charges," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 110-141.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:10:y:2008:i:1:p:110-141

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