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Sentencing Guidelines, Judicial Discretion, and Plea Bargaining


  • Jennifer Reinganum


The United States Sentencing Commission was created to develop federal sentencing guidelines, which restrict judicial discretion and were to found to increase the average sentence length while leaving unchanged the likelihood of resolution through plea bargaining. A game-theoretic model is developed in which a sentencing commission may impose guidelines or defer to judicial discretion; then a defendant and a prosecutor engage in plea bargaining; finally, those cases that fail to settle go to trial, where a sentence is determined according to the guidelines, if imposed or, if not, according to judicial discretion. Equilibrium behavior is consistent with the aforementioned findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Jennifer Reinganum, 2000. "Sentencing Guidelines, Judicial Discretion, and Plea Bargaining," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 31(1), pages 62-81, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:rje:randje:v:31:y:2000:i:spring:p:62-81

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas J. Miceli, 2008. "Criminal Sentencing Guidelines And Judicial Discretion," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(2), pages 207-215, April.
    2. Eric Langlais & Marie Obidzinski, 2013. "Elected vs appointed public law enforcers," Working Papers 2013-06, CRESE.
    3. SIDDHARTHA BANDYOPADHYAY & BRYAN C. McCANNON, 2015. "Prosecutorial Retention: Signaling by Trial," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 17(2), pages 219-256, April.
    4. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan C McCannon, 2014. "Queuing Up For Justice: Elections and Case Backlogs," Discussion Papers 14-10, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    5. Richard T. Boylan, 2004. "Do the Sentencing Guidelines Influence the Retirement Decisions of Federal Judges?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 231-253, January.
    6. ANCELOT Lydie, 2010. "Equité du plaider coupable : une analyse économétrique dans trois tribunaux de grande instance français," Working Papers of BETA 2010-09, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    7. Rousseau, Sandra & Telle, Kjetil, 2010. "On the existence of the optimal fine for environmental crime," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 329-337, December.
    8. Boylan, Richard T, 2004. "Salaries, Turnover, and Performance in the Federal Criminal Justice System," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(1), pages 75-92, April.

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