Legal Institutions and Social Values: Theory and Evidence from Plea Bargaining Regimes
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 11: 867–893 (2014)
37 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2014 Last revised: 30 Sep 2015
Date Written: April 20, 2014
How do social values shape legal institutions across countries? To address this question I focus on one important legal institution -- the use of plea bargaining in criminal cases. I develop a model in which the optimal scope of plea bargaining depends on social values. Specifically, a lower social emphasis on ensuring that innocent individuals are not punished, and a greater social emphasis on ensuring that guilty individuals are punished, lead to a greater use of plea bargaining. Using unique cross-country data on social preferences for punishing the innocent versus letting the guilty go free, as well as an original coding of plea bargaining regimes across countries, I obtain results that are consistent with the model.
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