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Responses to More Severe Punishment in the Courtroom: Evidence from Truth-in-Sentencing Laws

Author

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  • Fusako Tsuchimoto
  • Libor Dusek

Abstract

We investigate behavioral responses of judges and prosecutors to more severe punishments by analyzing the effects of Truth-in-Sentencing (TIS) laws in a large sample of individual criminal cases. The TIS laws raised effective punishment by requiring offenders to serve at least 85% of their imposed sentence in prison. Differences between the U.S. states in the timing of adoption and the types of crimes covered provide a source of identification. The key findings are: (1) The TIS laws reduced the probability that an arrested offender is eventually convicted by 25% through an increase in the probability that the case is dismissed, a reduction in the probability that the defendant pleads guilty, and a reduction in the probability that the defendant is convicted at trial. (2) The TIS laws the reduced the imposed sentence that a defendant may expect upon arrest by 14%. The behavioral responses are empirically important to partially mitigate the intended deterrent effect of the TIS laws.

Suggested Citation

  • Fusako Tsuchimoto & Libor Dusek, 2009. "Responses to More Severe Punishment in the Courtroom: Evidence from Truth-in-Sentencing Laws," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp403, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
  • Handle: RePEc:cer:papers:wp403
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    File URL: http://www.cerge-ei.cz/pdf/wp/Wp403.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Snyder, Edward A, 1990. "The Effect of Higher Criminal Penalties on Antitrust Enforcement," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 439-462, October.
    2. Reinganum, Jennifer F, 1988. "Plea Bargaining and Prosecutorial Discretion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 713-728, September.
    3. Bjerk, David, 2005. "Making the Crime Fit the Penalty: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion under Mandatory Minimum Sentencing," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(2), pages 591-625, October.
    4. Kessler, Daniel P & Piehl, Anne Morrison, 1998. "The Role of Discretion in the Criminal Justice System," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 256-276, October.
    5. Shepherd, Joanna M, 2002. "Police, Prosecutors, Criminals, and Determinate Sentencing: The Truth about Truth-in-Sentencing Laws," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 509-534, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ross, Amanda, 2012. "Crime, police, and truth-in-sentencing: The impact of state sentencing policy on local communities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 144-152.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Criminal procedure; criminal law; sentencing; Truth-in-Sentencing laws.;

    JEL classification:

    • K00 - Law and Economics - - General - - - General (including Data Sources and Description)
    • K41 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Litigation Process
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law

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