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Judicial Errors and Crime Deterrence: Theory and Experimental Evidence

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  • Matteo Rizzolli
  • Luca Stanca

Abstract

The economic theory of crime deterrence predicts that the conviction of an innocent individual (type I error) is as detrimental to deterrence as the acquittal of a guilty individual (type II error). In this paper, we qualify this result theoretically, showing that in the presence of risk aversion, loss aversion, or type I error aversion, type I errors have a stronger effect on deterrence than type II errors. We test these predictions with two experimental studies in which participants choose whether to steal from other individuals, under alternative combinations of probabilities of judicial errors. The results indicate that both types of errors have a significant impact on deterrence. As predicted, type I errors have a stronger impact on deterrence than type II errors. This asymmetry is entirely explained by differences in the expected utility gains from crime, whereas nonexpected utility factors do not play a significant role.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 55 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 311 - 338

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/663346

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References

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  1. Michael S. Visser & William T. Harbaugh & Naci H. Mocan, 2006. "An Experimental Test of Criminal Behavior Among Juveniles and Young Adults," NBER Working Papers 12507, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Torgler, Benno, 2002. " Speaking to Theorists and Searching for Facts: Tax Morale and Tax Compliance in Experiments," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(5), pages 657-83, December.
  7. Giovanni Immordino & Michele Polo, 2008. "Judicial Errors, Legal Standards and Innovative Activity," CSEF Working Papers 196, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy, revised 04 Jun 2010.
  8. Günther G. Schulze & Björn Frank, 2003. "Deterrence versus intrinsic motivation: Experimental evidence on the determinants of corruptibility," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 143-160, 08.
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  11. Galbiati, Roberto & Vertova, Pietro, 2008. "Obligations and cooperative behaviour in public good games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 146-170, September.
  12. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
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  15. Hörisch, Hannah & Strassmair, Christina, 2008. "An experimental test of the deterrence hypothesis," Discussion Papers in Economics 2139, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  16. Nuno Garoupa & Matteo Rizzolli, 2012. "Wrongful Convictions Do Lower Deterrence," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 168(2), pages 224-231, June.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Marchegiani, Lucia & Reggiani, Tommaso & Rizzolli, Matteo, 2011. "How Unjust! An Experimental Investigation of Supervisors' Evaluation Errors and Agents' Incentives," IZA Discussion Papers 6254, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Lucia Marchegiani & Tommaso Reggiani & Matteo Rizzolli, 2013. "Severity vs. Leniency Bias in Performance Appraisal: Experimental evidence," BEMPS - Bozen Economics & Management Paper Series BEMPS01, School of Economics and Management at the Free University of Bozen.
  3. Matteo Rizzolli & Margherita Saraceno, 2009. "Better that X guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer," Working Papers 168, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2009.

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