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Asset Forfeiture Laws and Criminal Deterrence

  • Derek Johnson

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Thomas J. Miceli

    (University of Connecticut)

Asset forfeiture laws allow the seizure of assets used in the commission of a crime. This paper examines the impact of such laws on deterrence by incorporating the possibility of asset forfeiture into the standard economic model of crime. When punishment is by a fine that can be optimally chosen, forfeiture is never optimal because of the deadweight loss it imposes in the capital market. When the fine is limited by the offender’s wealth, forfeiture may or may not be desirable. Extensions of the basic model include the optimal use of forfeiture when (i) partial seizure is possible, (ii) punishment is by imprisonment, (iii) the probability of apprehension is endogenous, and (iv) enforcers are rent-seekers.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2013-27.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2013-27
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  1. Nuno Garoupa & Daniel Klerman, 2002. "Optimal Law Enforcement with a Rent-Seeking Government," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 116-140, January.
  2. 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.
  3. Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
  4. Harris, John R, 1970. "On the Economics of Law and Order," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(1), pages 165-74, Jan.-Feb..
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