Does Physical Appearance Influence Legal Sentencing?


Is the man in this photo a felon or a Calvin Klein model? If you guessed a felon, you’d be correct. However, an indisputable criminal record isn’t preventing 36-year-old Jeremy Meeks from becoming a bonafide Internet celebrity. His mug shot went viral after it was posted on the Stockton (Calif.) Police Department’s Facebook page in 2014, along with information about a local crime-stopping program. Today he works for a top modeling agency in Los Angeles. So, do looks affect a legal outcome? Research suggests that judges are so influenced by appearance that fines issued to unattractive defendants are a whopping 304% higher than those imposed on attractive defendants. While attractiveness has little to no effect on a judge’s verdict of guilt, fines are levied at a much different level depending on looks. Why the difference? Attractive people are generally perceived as being more intelligent, more socially skilled, more likely to succeed, and more competent. Studies also revealed that attractiveness bias is rarely a conscious decision. It shouldn't come as a surprise that unattractive people are more often lured into a life of crime than people who are physically attractive. Meeks, of course, would be an exception to that rule. If you’re curious, he ended up with a 27-month sentence for robbery.