Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice


Criminal Justice

First Reader/Committee Chair

Bichler, Gisela


Differential sentencing has been a reoccurring issue in the judicial system for decades. Sentencing disparity occurs when similar offenders (similar in offense type, age, gender, ethnicity, and SES) receive different sentences or when different offenders receive the same sentence (Spohn, 2009). Prior studies find a sex effect,where women tend to be treated more leniently than men (e.g., Daly, 1987a). Sentencing discrepancies are evident in crimes that are considered to be gendered. Certain types of crimes are more likely to be committed by females and receive more lenient sanctions than if a male were to commit these types of crimes. These crimes include shoplifting, petty theft, and forgery. On the contrary, certain types of crimes are more likely to be committed by males and receive more harsh sentences than if a female were to commit them. These crimes include aggravated assault, burglary, and homicide. Driving under the influence of alcohol was chosen to study here because in instances of DUI, individuals are initially apprehended due to perceived behaviors behind the wheel, and officers are unaware if the driver is male or female. This study examines whether discrepancies exist in DUI case sentencing in the state of Pennsylvania. The bivariate analyses performed found significant associations between variables. The ANOVA depicted significant findings among men and women. Overall, women were more likely to be treated more leniently than similarly situated men. The crosstabulations also depicted significant findings for the effects of the mitigating and aggravating circumstances on the different types of sanctions. The presence of aggravating circumstances was associated with more severe types of sanctions, whereas the presence of mitigating circumstances was associated with less severe sanctions. The multivariate logistic regression models show that women were nine times more likely than men to receive a license suspension, and .3 times less likely to receive a jail sentence. These findings suggest that the Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines are not preventing disparities like they are supposed to. This indicates that legislative reform needs to occur in order to prevent disparities among individuals.