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Optimal Penalties for Concealment of Crime

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  • Timothy Stanley

    (Stanford University)

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    Abstract

    Society should give criminals incentives not to conceal their criminal activity. The concealment costs themselves are a social waste, as are other costs the concealment may impose on society, such as additional harm or increased law enforcement expenditures. I show that for any set of sanctions that lead to positive concealment on behalf of the criminal, that society can modify the sanctions to give the criminal an incentive not to conceal and unambiguously improve social welfare. A similar conclusion will apply to increasing the costs of concealment devices to improve social welfare. Society can deter concealment of crime by raising the sanction or raising the cost of concealing the crime. Which policy is chosen should depend upon the concealment device involved. If it is easy to detect the use of a concealment device when a person is caught, then penalties should be imposed on the criminal for using such a concealment device. If the device is of the type that has no legitimate purpose other than being used for concealment, then the device should be heavily taxed or be outlawed. For situations where we are unable to determine whether the device has been used to conceal and the device has legitimate purpose, society should set one penalty for the crime, and possibly a generalized additional sanction for any concealment of the crime that can be determined.

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    File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/le/papers/9507/9507001.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Law and Economics with number 9507001.

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    Date of creation: 07 Jul 1995
    Date of revision: 27 Dec 1995
    Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwple:9507001

    Note: Postscript (.ps) / Acrobat (.pdf), Macintosh, PostScript,
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    Web page: http://128.118.178.162

    Related research

    Keywords: Crime; Criminal Law;

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    References

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    1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Mookherjee, Dilip & Png, I P L, 1994. "Marginal Deterrence in Enforcement of Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 1039-66, October.
    3. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1994. "Optimal Law Enforcement with Self-Reporting of Behavior," NBER Working Papers 3822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
    5. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1991. "A Note on Optimal Fines When Wealth Varies Among Individuals," NBER Working Papers 3232, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Malik Arun S., 1993. "Self-Reporting and the Design of Policies for Regulating Stochastic Pollution," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 241-257, May.
    7. Polinsky, Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1979. "The Optimal Tradeoff between the Probability and Magnitude of Fines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(5), pages 880-91, December.
    8. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1993. "Should Liability be Based on the Harm to the Victim or the Gain to the Injurer?," NBER Working Papers 4586, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Arun S. Malik, 1990. "Avoidance, Screening and Optimum Enforcement," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(3), pages 341-353, Autumn.
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    Cited by:
    1. Nussim, Jacob & Tabbach, Avraham D., 2009. "Deterrence and avoidance," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 314-323, December.
    2. Jacob Nussim & Avraham Tabbach, 2008. "(Non)Regulable avoidance and the perils of punishment," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 191-208, June.

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