Abstract: Using administrative criminal records from Texas, we show how high temperatures affect the decision-making of police officers, prosecutors, and judges. We find that police reduce the number of arrests made per reported crime on the hottest days and that arrests made on these days are more likely to be dismissed in court. For prosecutors, high temperature on the day they announce criminal charges does not appear to affect the nature and severity of the charges. Judges, however, dismiss fewer cases, issue longer prison sentences, and levy higher fines when ruling on hot days. Our results suggest that the psychological and cognitive consequences of exposure to high temperatures have meaningful consequences for criminal defendants as they interact with the criminal justice system.


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