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Optimal Warning Strategies: Punishment Ought Not to Be Inflicted Where the Penal Provision Is Not Properly Conveyed

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  • Mungan Murat C.

    () (Florida State University College of Law, 425 W. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1601, USA)

Abstract

Law enforcers frequently issue warnings, as opposed to sanctions, when they detect first-time offenders. However, virtually all of the law and economics literature dealing with optimal penalty schemes for repeat offenders suggest that issuing warnings is a sub-optimal practice. Another observed phenomenon is the joint use of warnings and sanctions in law enforcement: person A may receive a sanction, whereas person B is only warned for committing the same offense. This situation can be explained through the use of hybrid warning strategies, a concept not yet formalized in the law enforcement literature, where law enforcers issue warnings to and sanctions to of first-time offenders. This article uses a two-period optimal deterrence model to provide a rationale as to why it may be optimal to issue warnings. When uninformed individuals are present and their punishment is assumed to be costly, there is a trade-off between such costs and reduced levels of deterrence. Depending on the cost structure associated with the punishment of uninformed individuals, warning strategies, including hybrid ones, may be optimal. A secondary contribution of this article is to point out that lack of information concerning laws may lead to optimal escalating punishments for repeat offenders.

Suggested Citation

  • Mungan Murat C., 2013. "Optimal Warning Strategies: Punishment Ought Not to Be Inflicted Where the Penal Provision Is Not Properly Conveyed," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(3), pages 303-339, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:rlecon:v:9:y:2013:i:3:p:303-339:n:1
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lando Henrik, 2009. "Prevention of Crime and the Optimal Standard of Proof in Criminal Law," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 33-52, January.
    2. Henrik Lando, 2006. "Does Wrongful Conviction Lower Deterrence?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 327-337, June.
    3. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell (ed.), 2007. "Handbook of Law and Economics," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 2, number 2.
    4. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell (ed.), 2007. "Handbook of Law and Economics," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1.
    5. Rousseau, Sandra, 2009. "The use of warnings in the presence of errors," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 191-201, September.
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