The results account for differences in individuals’ characteristics, arrest agency, number and type of charges, and the prosecutor for the case.
Complete Case Dismissals
After an arrest, a case may be dismissed in several ways.
First, prosecutors review evidence related to the arrest and make an initial decision to either prosecute or dismiss the case. Prosecutors may choose to dismiss cases for a host of reasons such as insufficient evidence for the charge or unavailability of a key witness.
Second, cases that prosecutors choose to prosecute may still be dismissed later for a number of reasons including where new evidence comes to light or a victim requests that the prosecutor stop the prosecution. We include a full table of all dismissed warrants by reason and race in the technical appendix
We refer to these first two types of dismissals as “complete dismissals,” in which all charges against an individual are dismissed. Prosecutors also may divert an individual into a program, such as a PreTrial Intervention program or Drug Court, where charges are dismissed if the individual successfully completes the program - referred to as a “diversion dismissal.”
Finally, when an individual is facing multiple cases or charges, some may be dismissed as part of plea negotiations where an individual pleads guilty to some charges while others are dismissed - referred to as a “plea dismissal.” All cases not dismissed through a complete dismissal, diversion dismissal, or plea dismissal will result in a plea or trial.
For this section of the report, unless otherwise indicated, we consider “complete dismissals” where all charges an individual is facing are dismissed at the discretion of the prosecutor or judge and not because the individual successfully completed diversion or pled to other charges.
Overall, roughly 20.5% of cases in Charleston County receive complete dismissals.
After accounting for individual characteristics and the number and type of charges in the case, there is a statistically significant difference in dismissal rates between Black and white men arrested for similar crimes, with Black men more likely to have their cases dismissed — roughly 21.4% of cases involving Black men are dismissed compared to 18.6% of cases involving white men.
The difference may be the result of Black men being arrested more frequently on what appear to be weaker evidentiary cases.
While the dismissal rates are not markedly different, as noted above, nearly twice as many Black men compared to white men are charged with crimes and, in turn, nearly twice as many Black men have their case dismissed; overall, 1,749 Black men have their cases completely dismissed, compared to 906 white men.
In future analyses, with preliminary results in the technical appendix, we also examine racial differences in how many days it takes to make a dismissal decision where decisions for Black men are taking over 13% longer than for white men.
The highest dismissal rates for both Black and white men are for person, gun, and domestic violence related crimes which may be driven by the challenges of prosecuting crimes with a victim or where there are multiple individuals arrested for the crime.
There is a statistically significant difference in dismissal rates for Black men compared to white men for person crimes — 26.8% versus 22.2%.
Though not statistically significant, there is still a large difference in dismissals for Black men compared to white men for gun crimes — 26.3% versus 23.5%.
Black men are more likely to have their domestic violence case dismissed — 32.8% versus 28.0%
A larger sample for both Black and white men is needed to determine if this difference is statistically significant.
Next section: Plea Negotiations →