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The Economics of the Fourth Amendment: Crime, Search, and Anti-Utopia


  • Hugo Mialon
  • Sue Mialon


We develop a strategic model of crime and punishment. We then give the Fourth Amendment formal expression in terms of the model, and analyze its effect on equilibrium elements of social welfare. In one parameter range, the Fourth Amendment actually increases police search, and has an ambiguous effect on wrongful searches. But in the other intermediate range, it reduces police search and wrongful searches. In both ranges, it increases crime but reduces wrongful convictions. Moreover, a strong Fourth Amendment and strict police accountability are jointly sufficient for ongoing progress in search technology to ultimately lead to an extreme parameter range where the stable equilibrium is Utopian, in the sense that the police never search without probable cause and most citizens do not commit crime.

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  • Hugo Mialon & Sue Mialon, 2004. "The Economics of the Fourth Amendment: Crime, Search, and Anti-Utopia," Emory Economics 0411, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
  • Handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0411

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