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Better that X guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer

Author

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  • Matteo Rizzolli

    ()

  • Margherita Saraceno

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Matteo Rizzolli & Margherita Saraceno, 2009. "Better that X guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer," Working Papers 168, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2009.
  • Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:168
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    File URL: http://dems.unimib.it/repec/pdf/mibwpaper168.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2009
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Wijck, 2013. "The economics of pre-crime interventions," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 441-458, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Type I errors; Type II errors; evidence; optimal underdeterrence; Blackstone Pareto distribution; optimal screening;

    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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