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Better that X guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer

  • Matteo Rizzolli

    ()

  • Margherita Saraceno

The principle that it is better to let some guilty individuals be set free than to mistakenly convict an innocent person is generally shared by legal scholars, judges and lawmakers of modern societies. The paper shows why this common trait of criminal procedure is also efficient. It extends the standard Polinsky and Shavell (2007) model of deterrence and shows that when the costs of convictions are positive, and guilty individuals are more likely to be convicted than innocent individuals it is always efficient to minimize the number of wrongful convictions, while a more than minimal amount of wrongful acquittals may be optimal.

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File URL: http://dipeco.economia.unimib.it/repec/pdf/mibwpaper168.pdf
File Function: First version, 2009
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 168.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2009
Date of revision: Jul 2009
Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:168
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  1. Miceli, Thomas J., 1991. "Optimal criminal procedure: Fairness and deterrence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 3-10, May.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1992. "Accuracy in the Determination of Liability," NBER Working Papers 4203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1982. "The optimum enforcement of laws and the concept of justice: A positive analysis," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 3-27, June.
  5. Vincy Fon & Hans-Bernd Schäfer, 2007. "State Liability for Wrongful Conviction: Incentive Effects on Crime Levels," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 163(2), pages 269-284, June.
  6. Froeb, Luke M. & Kobayashi, Bruce H., 2001. "Evidence production in adversarial vs. inquisitorial regimes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 267-272, February.
  7. Lando Henrik, 2009. "Prevention of Crime and the Optimal Standard of Proof in Criminal Law," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 33-52, January.
  8. Okan Yilankaya, 2002. "A model of evidence production and optimal standard of proof and penalty in criminal trials," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(2), pages 385-409, May.
  9. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1984. "The optimal use of fines and imprisonment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 89-99, June.
  10. Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati & Pietro Vertova, 2009. "The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(2), pages 257-280, 04.
  11. Mookherjee, Dilip & Png, I P L, 1992. "Monitoring vis-a-vis Investigation in Enforcement of Law," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 556-65, June.
  12. Kaplow, Louis, 1992. "The optimal probability and magnitude of fines for acts that definitely are undesirable," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 3-11, March.
  13. Daughety, Andrew F & Reinganum, Jennifer F, 2000. "On the Economics of Trials: Adversarial Process, Evidence, and Equilibrium Bias," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 365-94, October.
  14. Png, I. P. L., 1986. "Optimal subsidies and damages in the presence of judicial error," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 101-105, June.
  15. Levitt, Steven D, 1997. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-90, June.
  16. Matteo Rizzolli & Luca Stanca, 2012. "Judicial Errors and Crime Deterrence: Theory and Experimental Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 311 - 338.
  17. Levy, Moshe & Solomon, Sorin, 1997. "New evidence for the power-law distribution of wealth," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 242(1), pages 90-94.
  18. Ronald J. Allen & Michael S. Pardo, 2007. "The Problematic Value of Mathematical Models of Evidence," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 107-140, 01.
  19. Craswell, Richard & Calfee, John E, 1986. "Deterrence and Uncertain Legal Standards," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(2), pages 279-303, Fall.
  20. Mats Persson & Claes-Henric Siven, 2007. "The Becker Paradox And Type I Versus Type Ii Errors In The Economics Of Crime," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 48(1), pages 211-233, 02.
  21. Polinsky, Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1979. "The Optimal Tradeoff between the Probability and Magnitude of Fines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(5), pages 880-91, December.
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