The Economics of the Law of Criminal Attempts: A Victim-Centered Perspective
University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 145, No. 2 (1996).
Posted: 6 Nov 1996
This article explores a new rationale for the sanctions imposed on pre-crime activities such as attempt and preparation. It argues that these sanctions serve a role previously unnoticed, in influencing the incentives of crime victims to invest in precautions prior to the crime. It demonstrates that victims' investment in precautions would otherwise be non-optimal, since the benefits victims gain from their precautions diverge from the social benefit. The article argues one way criminal law policy may resolve this distortion and provide victims with optimal incentives is by tuning the sanctions inflicted upon criminals according to their victims' conduct. A victim who engages in non-optimal precautions is regarded "at fault", and the sanction to its offender will be reduced. Fearing the decline in the deterrent effect, victims will be induced to engage in optimal precautions. Applying this idea, the article offers a justification for the lenient legal treatment of pre-crime activities. The punishment for attempts affects the incentives of potential victims to take measures which lead attempts to fail. The more lenient the punishment for attempts, the smaller the return to victims' prevention measures. The degree of leniency can potentially be tuned to provide optimal prevention incentives for victims.
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation