Justice Served? Perceptions of Plea Bargaining Involving a Sexual Assault in Child and Adult Females

Jonathan M. Golding, Kellie R. Lynch, Sarah E. Malik, Olivia Foster-Gimbel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Seventy-four community members (46 women, 28 men) read vignettes describing a plea bargain in a mock sexual assault case. We employed a within-participant design and manipulated rape victim age (6- vs. 26-year-old), type of plea bargain agreement (reduced prison sentence vs. only probation), and reason for plea bargain (save victim from reliving a traumatic experience vs. save time in court). Participants answered questions about the plea bargain agreement (e.g., was justice served). The results showed less support of plea bargaining when it (a) involved a child, (b) involved only probation, and (c) when the rationale for the plea bargain was to save time. Significant moderation revealed that plea deals involving probation in 6-year-old child cases were perceived most negatively. The results are discussed in terms of procedural justice theory in sexual assault cases, and how perceptions of the general public impact the use of plea bargaining as a legal tool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-518
Number of pages16
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2017 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology.


  • courtroom perceptions
  • legal psychology
  • plea bargain
  • rape
  • sexual assault

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • General Psychology
  • Law


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