Standing Trial versus Copping a Plea: Is There a Penalty?

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Approximately 90% of all felony criminal defendants across the United States give up their right to a jury trial and plead guilty. They do so because of perceptions that they will be penalized by harsher sentences if they exercise this right. This study explores the issue of whether or not these perceptions are true. It was found that there is a non-significant tendency for trial defendants to be imprisoned more often after adjusting for the effects of other important variables in a logistic regression model. When sentence length is examined for those imprisoned, it was found that trial defendants received 13.55 months imprisonment more than plea defendants after adjusting for other relevant variables. There does appear to be a penalty attached to those exercising their Constitutional right to a trial.