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On the role of plea bargaining and the distribution of sentences in the absence of judicial system frictions


  • Bjerk, David


This paper examines the potential role that plea bargaining may serve in an environment where trials and incarceration are costless, there is no chance of convicting innocent defendants, and coercion is not necessary to obtain further information from arrested defendants. This analysis shows that even in the frictionless judicial system environment outlined above, a risk-averse society may still find it optimal to resolve a large fraction, or even all of its cases through plea bargaining. However, this is not always the case. If defendants are generally risk-loving, mutually acceptable plea bargains may not be possible, but when they are, the plea bargain sentences will necessarily fall short of even the expected sentence from going to trial, regardless of the relative bargaining power between prosecutors and defendants.

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  • Bjerk, David, 2008. "On the role of plea bargaining and the distribution of sentences in the absence of judicial system frictions," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 1-7, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:28:y:2008:i:1:p:1-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1999. "On the Disutility and Discounting of Imprisonment and the Theory of Deterrence," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(1), pages 1-16, January.
    2. Baker, Scott & Mezzetti, Claudio, 2001. "Prosecutorial Resources, Plea Bargaining, and the Decision to Go to Trial," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 149-167, April.
    3. Reinganum, Jennifer F, 1988. "Plea Bargaining and Prosecutorial Discretion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 713-728, September.
    4. Kobayashi, Bruce H. & Lott, John Jr., 1992. "Low-probability-high-penalty enforcement strategies and the efficient operation of the plea-bargaining system," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 69-77, March.
    5. Franzoni, Luigi Alberto, 1999. "Negotiated Enforcement and Credible Deterrence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(458), pages 509-535, October.
    6. Grossman, Gene M & Katz, Michael L, 1983. "Plea Bargaining and Social Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 749-757, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Bryan C McCannon, 2010. "Re-election Concerns and the Failure of Plea Bargaining," Discussion Papers 10-28, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.

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