The Comparative Law and Economics of Plea Bargaining: Theory and Evidence
Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law; Harvard Law School
July 19, 2011
Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 39
Why is plea bargaining commonly employed in some countries, while its use is heavily restricted in others? I develop a formal model in which a social planner, who minimizes the social harms from punishing the innocent and not punishing the guilty, considers the effect of different plea bargaining regimes on law enforcement agencies and individuals, and decides on the optimal scope of plea bargaining. The model shows that higher levels of crime and a greater social emphasis on ensuring that guilty individuals are punished lead to a greater use of plea bargaining, while lower levels of crime and a greater social emphasis on ensuring that innocent individuals are not punished leads to less use of plea bargaining. Using new cross-country data on social preferences for punishing the innocent versus not punishing the guilty together with crime data, and a new coding of plea bargaining regimes across countries, I obtain results that are consistent with the model’s predictions.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 27working papers series
Date posted: July 20, 2011
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