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Judicial Errors and Crime Deterrence: Theory and Experimental Evidence

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  • Matteo Rizzolli

    ()

  • Luca Stanca

    ()

Abstract

The standard economic theory of crime deterrence predicts that the conviction of an innocent (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 differential sensitivity to procedural fairness, type-I errors can have a larger effect on deterrence than type-II errors. We test these predictions with an experiment where participants make a decision on whether to steal from other individuals, being subject to different probabilities of judicial errors. The results indicate that both types of judicial errors have a large and significant impact on deterrence, but these effects are not symmetric. An increase in the probability of type-I errors has a larger negative impact on deterrence than an equivalent increase in the probability of type-II errors. This asymmetry is largely explained by risk aversion and, to a lesser extent, type-I error aversion.

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File URL: http://dipeco.economia.unimib.it/repec/pdf/mibwpaper170.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 170.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2009
Date of revision: Aug 2009
Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:170

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Keywords: Judicial errors; criminal procedure; procedural fairness; experimental economics; law and economics; crime; deterrence;

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References

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  1. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2005. "Deterrence versus Judicial Error: A Comparative View of Standards of Proof," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 161(2), pages 193-, June.
  2. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
  3. Ulrich Schmidt & Horst Zank, 2005. "What is Loss Aversion?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 157-167, January.
  4. Uschi Backes-Gellner & Donata Bessey & Kerstin Pull & Simone Tuor, 2008. "What Behavioural Economics Teaches Personnel Economics," Working Papers 0077, University of Zurich, Institute for Strategy and Business Economics (ISU).
  5. 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.
  6. Michael S. Visser & William T. Harbaugh & Naci Mocan, 2006. "An Experimental Test of Criminal Behavior Among Juveniles and Young Adults," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2006-11, University of Oregon Economics Department.
  7. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 2005. "The Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Discussion Papers 05-004, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Klaus Abbink, 2006. "Laboratory experiments on corruption," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series archive-38, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  11. Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch & Christina Strassmair, 2012. "An Experimental Test of the Deterrence Hypothesis," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(3), pages 447-459, August.
  12. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 1999. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 183, CESifo Group Munich.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Henrik Lando, 2006. "Does Wrongful Conviction Lower Deterrence?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 327-337, 06.
  16. Vincy Fon & Hans-Bernd Schäfer, 2007. "State Liability for Wrongful Conviction: Incentive Effects on Crime Levels," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 163(2), pages 269-284, June.
  17. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-95, September.
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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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