The People’s Hired Guns? Experimentally Testing the Inclination of Prosecutors to Abuse the Vague Definition of Crimes
AbstractLegal realists expect prosecutors to be selfish. If they get the defendant convicted, this helps them advance their careers. If the odds of winning on the main charge are low, prosecutors have a second option. They can exploit the ambiguity of legal doctrine and charge the defendant for vaguely defined crimes, like “conspiracy”. We model the situation as a signalling game and test it experimentally. If we have participants play the naked game, at least a minority plays the game theoretic equilibrium and use the vague rule if a signal indicates that the defendant is guilty. This becomes even slightly more frequent if a misbehaving defendant imposes harm on a third participant. By contrast if we frame the situation as a court case, almost all prosecutors take the signal at face value and knowingly run the risk of loosing in court if the signal was false. Our experimental prosecutors behave like textbook legal idealists, and follow the urge of duty.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in its series Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods with number 2011_14.
Date of creation: Jul 2011
Date of revision:
Risk aversion; prosecution; doctrinal ambiguity; vaguely defined crimes; duty; DOSPERT;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
- C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
- K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
- C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
- D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics; Underlying Principles
- K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2011-07-27 (All new papers)
- NEP-EXP-2011-07-27 (Experimental Economics)
- NEP-UPT-2011-07-27 (Utility Models & Prospect Theory)
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