Public Choice

, Volume 161, Issue 1–2, pp 141–156 | Cite as

The effect of the election of prosecutors on criminal trials

  • Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay
  • Bryan C. McCannonEmail author


We examine whether elections of public prosecutors influence the mix of cases taken to trial versus plea bargained. A theoretical model is constructed wherein voters use outcomes of the criminal justice system as a signal of prosecutors’ quality, leading to a distortion in the mix of cases taken to trial. Using data from North Carolina we test whether reelection pressures lead to (a) an increase in the number and proportion of convictions from jury trials and (b) a decrease in the average sanction obtained in both jury trials and pleas. Our empirical findings are consistent with our theoretical predictions.


Crime Election Plea bargaining Prosecutor Trials 



We thank the chief editor, associate editor, three anonymous referees, Juste Abramovaite, Toke Aidt, Ralph Bailey, Anindya Banerjee, Marco Barassi, Matthew Cole, Allin Cottrell, Valentina Dimitrova-Grajzl, Rob Elliott, Rosa Ferrer, Amanda Griffith, Andy Hanssen, Toby Kendall, Clare Leaver, Tito Pietra, Peter Postl, and seminar participants at the University of Birmingham, the University of Sassari, St. Bonaventure University, and the Workshop on Law, Economics, and Institutions for their comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Saint Bonaventure UniversitySaint BonaventureNYUSA

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