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In: Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol.36, No. 4, 2008.


Scholars have encouraged studies of police decision-making to move beyond the arrest decision into research that broadens the understanding of police behavior. The criminal charge placed by officers against offenders is largely an untouched area of study. Examining criminal charging decisions goes beyond simple dichotomous decisions, such as arrest, but instead explores the area of police leniency or punitiveness. Randomly constructed vignettes describing a domestic violence incident were given to officers from four agencies. Officers indicated the criminal charges they would likely list against an offender if they were to make an arrest. Serious criminal charges were often supported by additional, but less serious, charges. Victim injury and an uncooperative offender were related to the decision to charge a misdemeanor offense. There was a significant negative relationship between the number of charges listed and more experienced officers and officers working in smaller agencies. The implications of this study and directions for future research are discussed.