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Criminal Law and Behavioral Law and Economics: Observations on the Neglected Role of Uncertainty in Deterring Crime

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  • Harel, Alon
  • Segal, Uzi

Abstract

Criminal sanctions are usually public, stable and predictable. In contrast, the practices governing the determination of the probability of detection and conviction reinforce uncertainty. We invoke psychological insights to illustrate that criminals prefer a scheme in which the size of the sentence is uncertain while the probability of detection and conviction is certain. Consequently, the choice to increase certainty with respect to the size of the sentence and to decrease certainty with respect to the probability of detection and conviction can be justified on the grounds that such a scheme is disfavored by criminals and consequently has better deterrent effects.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics in its series Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt2gx715nd.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 1999
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt2gx715nd

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  1. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1997. "On the Disutility and Discounting of Imprisonment and the Theory of Deterrence," NBER Working Papers 6259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 571-87, May.
  3. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  4. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Kaplow, Louis, 1993. "Optimal sanctions and differences in individuals' likelihood of avoiding detection," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 217-224, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Dai, Zhixin & Hogarth, Robin M. & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2014. "Ambiguity on Audits and Cooperation in a Public Goods Game," IZA Discussion Papers 7932, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Nuno Garoupa, 2003. "Behavioral Economic Analysis of Crime: A Critical Review," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 5-15, January.
  3. Chiu, W.Henry & Madden, Paul, 2007. "Crime, punishment, and background risks," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(4), pages 543-555, April.
  4. Gregory DeAngelo & Gary Charness, 2012. "Deterrence, expected cost, uncertainty and voting: Experimental evidence," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 73-100, February.

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