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Better that ten guilty persons escape: punishment costs explain the standard of evidence

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  • Matteo Rizzolli

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  • Margherita Saraceno

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Abstract

It is generally agreed that the conviction of an innocent person (type-I error) should be avoided even at the cost of allowing a certain number of acquittals of criminals (type-II error). The high standard of evidence that is usually required in criminal procedure reflects this principle. Conversely, the established model of optimal deterrence that follows the seminal work of Becker ( 1968 ) shows that the two types of error are equally detrimental in terms of deterrence and thus it prescribes the minimization of the sum of errors with no primacy given to type-I errors over type-II errors. This paper explains that when the costs of punishment are positive, and guilty individuals are, on average, more likely to be found guilty than innocent ones, wrongful convictions are more socially costly than wrongful acquittals. This justifies the bias against wrongful convictions without resorting to any ad hoc assumption about the relative weight of the two errors. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Matteo Rizzolli & Margherita Saraceno, 2013. "Better that ten guilty persons escape: punishment costs explain the standard of evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(3), pages 395-411, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:155:y:2013:i:3:p:395-411
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-011-9867-y
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    Cited by:

    1. Avdasheva, Svetlana & Shastitko, Andrei, 2015. "Alleged Infringement: The Time of Announcement Does Matter," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 72-91, February.
    2. Feess, Eberhard & Schramm, Markus & Wohlschlegel, Ansgar, 2014. "The Impact of Fine Size and Uncertainty on Punishment and Deterrence: Evidence from the Laboratory," MPRA Paper 59463, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Mungan, Murat C., 2014. "A behavioral justification for escalating punishment schemes," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 189-197.
    4. Markussen, Thomas & Putterman, Louis & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2016. "Judicial error and cooperation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 372-388.
    5. Matteo Rizzolli, 2016. "Adjudication: Type-I and Type-II Errors," CERBE Working Papers wpC15, CERBE Center for Relationship Banking and Economics.
    6. Antonio Nicita & Matteo Rizzolli, 2014. "In Dubio Pro Reo. Behavioral Explanations of Pro-defendant Bias in Procedures," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 60(3), pages 554-580.
    7. Mungan, Murat C., 2015. "Wrongful convictions and the punishment of attempts," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 79-87.
    8. Barbara Luppi & Francesco Parisi, 2013. "Jury Size and the Hung-Jury Paradox," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 399-422.
    9. Bertrand Chopard & Edwige Marion & Ludivine Roussey, 2014. "Does the Appeals Process Lower the Occurrence of Legal Errors?," EconomiX Working Papers 2014-43, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    10. Avdasheva, Svetlana & Kryuchkova, Polina, 2015. "The ‘reactive’ model of antitrust enforcement: When private interests dictate enforcement actions – The Russian case," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 200-208.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Judicial errors; Type-I errors; Type-II errors; Optimal standard of evidence; Punishment costs; K14; K41; K42;

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K41 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Litigation Process
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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