The Effect of Police Investigation Time on Sentence Disposition in White-Collar Theft and Fraud Criminal Cases

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Criminological research has largely ignored the effect of police investigation time on white-collar case dispositions in the criminal justice system. White-collar cases typically involve a large investment of investigation time with negligible sentencing outcomes. The current study analyzes a multi-dimensional quantitative and qualitative measure of time. Controlling for factors that are commonly believed to influence sentence dispositions in white-collar cases, the findings suggest a relationship between an inclusive measure of police investigation time and court disposition. By employing regression analysis it was discovered that this relationship is an outcome of the measurement of the multi-dimensional nature of police investigation time, and may be specifically related to: the investigative effort of an officer, the amount of evidence gathered, and the number of hours spent working on a case. The analysis supports the contention that the greater the amount of investigation time spent on a case the harsher the sentence disposition. Specifically, the results identify a relationship between the initial police and concluding sentencing stage of the criminal justice process for white-collar criminal theft and fraud cases.

The notion of time regulates everyday functioning in industrial society and human relations. Within the criminal justice process, however, the function of time has been largely neglected (Jacobs, 1983; Zata & Lizotte, 1985), especially in terms of the relationship between time spent on police investigations and court dispositions. Police studies have, instead, commonly focused on community policing (Bittner, 1990; Forcese, 1992; Leighton, 1995; Ontario Ministry of Solicitor General, 2000), officer use and misuse of force (Brodeur, 1994; Fyfe, 1986; Skolnick & Fyfe, 1993), officer discretion (de Lint, 1998; Robinson & Chandek, 2000; Stalans & Finn, 2000) and recruitment, training and visible minority representation (Coutts, 1990; Jain, 1995; Mastrofski & Ritti, 1996). The sentencing disparity literature similarly neglects the influence of police investigation time and commonly concentrates its efforts on the effects of gender (Daly & Bordt, 1995; Dell, 1996; Mohr, 1995), race and ethnicity (Blumstein, 1982; LaPrairie, 1995; Pfeifer & Ogloff, 2003; Zatz, 1987), and judicial characteristics (Bodapati et al., 1995; Daly, 1996; Worden, 1995) upon court dispositions. The limited police research that does address the concept of time typically approaches it from the standpoint of individual officer decision making. Kirkham and Wollan (1980, p.90) explain such an analysis of time as "an occupational time frame, where decisions, some of them very grave, must be made within a matter of seconds or very few minutes: how best to approach a silent-alarm call or suspicious individual, what first-aid measures to use on a critically injured person until an ambulance arrives, whether to resort to the use of chemical mace, the nightstick, or even the service revolver during an attack."

Although it may be argued that research on white-collar crime has addressed the concept of police investigation time, it is has been mainly limited to the finding that white-collar cases typically entail a large amount of investigation time with minor sentencing outcomes (Benson et al., 1993; Cullen et al., 1987; Hagan & Nagel, 1982). As Friedrichs (1996:272) suggests, "[w]hite collar crime cases are especially likely to require a greater investment of time than typical conventional crime cases, with a lower probability of a successful resolution." The importance of the police role in white-collar cases is thus evident (Swanson et al., 2000), yet there is a lack of research on the relationship between police investigation time and white-collar sentence dispositions. Some suggest research in the area remains limited because uncertainty continues to surround the definition of white-collar crime (Friedrichs, 1992; Hagan et al. …