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Search, Seizure and (False?) Arrest: An Analysis of Fourth Amendment Remedies when Police can Plant Evidence

  • Dhammika Dharmapala

    (University of Illinois)

  • Thomas J. Miceli

    (University of Connecticut)

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures in criminal investigations. The Supreme Court has interpreted this to require that police obtain a warrant prior to search and that illegally seized evidence be excluded from trial. A consensus has developed in the law and economics literature that tort liability for police officers would be a superior means of deterring unreasonable searches. We argue that this conclusion depends on the assumption of truth-seeking police, and develop a game-theoretic model to compare the two remedies when some police officers (“bad” types) are willing to plant evidence in order to obtain convictions, while other police (“good” types) are not (where this type is private information). We characterize the perfect Bayesian equilibria of the asymmetric-information game between the police and a court that seeks to minimize error costs in deciding whether to convict or acquit suspects. In this framework, we show that the exclusionary rule with a warrant requirement leads to superior outcomes (relative to tort liability) in terms of the truth-finding function of courts, because the warrant requirement can reduce the scope for “bad” types of police to plant evidence. JEL Classification: K14, K42 Key words: Exclusionary rule, Fourth Amendment, search and seizure

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2012-37.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2012-37
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  1. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 1995. "Keeping Society in the Dark: On the Admissibility of Pretrial Negotiations as Evidence in Court," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(2), pages 203-221, Summer.
  2. Juan Dubra, 2004. "Why do Good Cops Defend Bad Cops?," Econometric Society 2004 Latin American Meetings 342, Econometric Society.
  3. Hugo Mialon, 2004. "An Economic Theory of the Fifth Amendment," Emory Economics 0409, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
  4. Sue H. Mialon, 2008. "The Effects of the Fourth Amendment: An Economic Analysis," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 22-44, May.
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  7. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "Corruption and Optimal Law Enforcement," NBER Working Papers 6945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Mühlheusser, Gerd & Roider, Andreas, 2005. "Black Sheep and Walls of Silence," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 56, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  10. Schrag, Joel & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1994. "Crime and Prejudice: The Use of Character Evidence in Criminal Trials," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 319-42, October.
  11. Grossman, Gene M & Katz, Michael L, 1983. "Plea Bargaining and Social Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 749-57, September.
  12. Reinganum, Jennifer F., 1986. "Plea Bargaining and Prosecutorial Discretion," Working Papers 616, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  13. Dhammika Dharmapala & Richard H. McAdams, 2003. "The Condorcet Jury Theorem and the Expressive Function of Law: A Theory of Informative Law," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31.
  14. Hugo Mialon & Sue Mialon, 2008. "The Economics of Search Warrants," Emory Economics 0810, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
  15. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1996. "Convicting the Innocent: The Inferiority of Unanimous Jury Verdicts," Discussion Papers 1170, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  16. Miceli, Thomas J, 1990. "Optimal Prosecution of Defendants Whose Guilt Is Uncertain," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 189-201, Spring.
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