Academic journal article Law & Society Review

Judicial Sentencing Decisions in Taiwanese Economic Crimes: Consequences of Swift Justice

Academic journal article Law & Society Review

Judicial Sentencing Decisions in Taiwanese Economic Crimes: Consequences of Swift Justice

Article excerpt

This study examines the effect of case-processing time on judicial sentencing decisions of economic crime in Taiwan. Studies have been conducted with cases involving misdemeanors and felony homicide, but not with serious economic offenses committed in countries outside of North America. As economic crime becomes increasingly an international problem, research from other countries will be more important. The hypotheses considered were as follows: as the time between the decision to prosecute and the judicial sentencing outcome decreases, both the likelihood of being sent to prison and the likelihood of receiving a longer prison sentence increases. Our findings indicated that case-processing time is not only an indicator of offense severity but also a factor in judicial sentencing decisions.

Judicial sentencing philosophies involve a complex balance between controlling future unlawful acts and assuring due process and individualized sentencing to address the offender's wrongful behavior. In sentencing practice, reasons for punishing criminals include gaining societal retribution and denunciation and protection for society through incarceration, decreasing the probability that others will commit the same crime through general deterrence, and decreasing the probability that individual offenders will commit future crimes through specific deterrence or rehabilitation (Nagel & Hagan 1982). Along with these punishment philosophies lies the equality principle, which requires similar punishments for like offenses and/or offenders. Judges determine case and/or offender similarity by assessing culpability, which is the level of the offender's responsibility or level of blame for the crime. The assessment of culpability lacks clear guidelines and is therefore difficult for judges to make, since they must examine conditions before, during, and after the crime activity (Wheeler et al. 1988).

Judicial sentencing decisions are complicated by the reality of reducing case-processing time and court caseload management. Judges must hear cases and dispose of them in a timely manner so as not to increase their caseload to an unmanageable size and so they will not violate the U.S. Speedy Trial Act of 1979. According to this Act, American courts must set the trial date within 70 days following the indictment (Doyel 1982). The American Bar Association standards for disposition time for civil cases and criminal cases are 365 days and 120 days, respectively (Miller 1991). These criteria regarding case-processing time have led to concerns about the possibility of sentencing disparity.

Sentencing Disparity

Sentencing disparity has been examined involving both street crimes (e.g., Chiricos & Waldo 1975; D'lessio & Stolzenberg 1993; Dixon 1995; Ulmer & Kramer 1996) and white-collar/economic crimes (Hagan et al. 1980; Wheeler et al. 1982). Within these studies, a broad range of variables has been investigated. These variables can be separated into three general categories: (1) extralegal factors, (2) legal factors, and (3) legal-processing factors. Early sentencing-disparity research explored bivariate relationships between extralegal variables (e.g., defendant attributes) and sentencing outcomes (e.g., type and length of sentence) without controlling for relevant legal variables (Johnson 1957). Later sentencing research (Hagan 1974; Hagan et al. 1980) focused on the relationship between race or social status and sentencing results, but added legal variables or legal-processing variables to the research model. Legal variables usually refer to offense type, offense seriousness, and prior record.

One such study found that the chances of being sent to prison increased with the number of the offender's prior convictions (Wheeler et al. 1982). In the same study, tax offenders and securities and exchange violators were more likely to go to prison than those involved in bribery, antitrust violations, or bank embezzlement. …

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