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The Value of Truth and the Optimal Standard of Proof in Legal Disputes

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  • Davis, Michael L

Abstract

This article models the fact-finding process as one in which a defendant is accused of violating some legal standard (e.g., exceeding the speed limit). The fact finder cannot observe the actual behavior but observes some variable that is a noisy signal of the truth (e.g., the reading from a radar detector). From this signal it is possible to calculate the probability of guilt. The standard of proof (the minimal probability necessary to convict) that minimizes the expected cost of error is seen as a trade-off between the expected cost of false acquittals and convictions. A simple example shows that a clearer signal of truth (a more reliable radar detector) may not always lower error costs, because the utility of a fact-finding method depends also on the population of defendants and the standard of proof. These results clarify the source of disagreements over different fact-finding procedures. Copyright 1994 by Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Davis, Michael L, 1994. "The Value of Truth and the Optimal Standard of Proof in Legal Disputes," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 343-359, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:10:y:1994:i:2:p:343-59
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    Cited by:

    1. Demougin, Dominique & Fluet, Claude, 2006. "Preponderance of evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 963-976, May.
    2. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2005. "Deterrence versus Judicial Error: A Comparative View of Standards of Proof," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 161(2), pages 193-193, June.
    3. Lehmann, Markus A., 2002. "Error minimization and deterrence in agency control," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 373-391, May.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Fluet, Claude, 2010. "L’économie de la preuve judiciaire," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 86(4), pages 451-486, décembre.
    7. Mehmet Bac & Parimal Kanti Bag, 2000. "Law Enforcement Costs and Legal Presumptions," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0194, Econometric Society.
    8. Nuno Garoupa & Anthony Ogus, 2006. "A Strategic Interpretation of Legal Transplants," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 339-363, June.
    9. Bruce Lyons & Gordon Menzies & Daniel Zizzo, 2012. "Conflicting evidence and decisions by agency professionals: an experimental test in the context of merger regulation," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 73(3), pages 465-499, September.
    10. Christoph Engel, 2008. "Preponderance of the Evidence versus Intime Conviction. A Behavioural Perspective on a Conflict between American and Continental European Law," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2008_33, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    11. Kobayashi, Bruce H. & Lott, John Jr., 1996. "In defense of criminal defense expenditures and plea bargaining," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 397-416, December.
    12. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2000. "Prepondeance of the Evidence: Tort Rules and the Efficient Standard of Proof," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 120, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.
    13. Ognedal, Tone, 2005. "Should the Standard of Proof be Lowered to Reduce Crime?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 45-61, March.
    14. Lundberg, Alexander, 2016. "Sentencing discretion and burdens of proof," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 34-42.
    15. Xinyu Hua & Kathryn E. Spier, 2005. "Information and Externalities in Sequential Litigation," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 161(2), pages 215-215, June.
    16. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2004. "Deterrence vs Judicial Error: A Comparative View of Standards of Proof," CIRANO Working Papers 2004s-38, CIRANO.
    17. Heyes, Anthony & Doucet, Joseph, 1997. "2-Stage Enforcement and Regulatory Polarisation: a Simple Model with Application to the USEPA," Cahiers de recherche 9717, Université Laval - Département d'économique.

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