Juvenile penalties for "lawyering up": The role of counsel and extralegal case characteristics

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15 Scopus citations


The presence of counsel for juveniles in the courtroom seems advantageous from a due process perspective, yet some studies suggest that juveniles receive harsher dispositions when represented by an attorney. This study tested whether a "counsel penalty" existed regardless of attorney type and, guided by prior sentencing literature, used a more comprehensive model to determine the influence of extralegal and contextual factors that may amplify the counsel penalty. Utilizing official data from a Northeastern state in a multilevel modeling strategy, this study found that regardless of the type of counsel retained, harsher sentences were received as compared with cases in which a juvenile was not represented by counsel even after controlling for offense type. Moreover, minority youth with public defenders and males with private counsel received harsher sentences while community characteristics did not appear to have a significant influence on sentencing decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)827-848
Number of pages22
JournalCrime and Delinquency
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • attorney representation
  • juvenile detention
  • sentencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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