The Effect of Type-1 Error on Deterrence

18 Pages Posted: 27 May 2014 Last revised: 25 Mar 2016

See all articles by Henrik Lando

Henrik Lando

Copenhagen Business School - CBS Law

Murat C. Mungan

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Date Written: January 28, 2015


A common view in the law and economics literature holds that equal increases in type-1 and type-2 error lower deterrence by the same amount. We demonstrate that this view is generally incorrect both when the court's error concerns the assessment of the alleged offender's act (mistake of act) and when it concerns the identity of the offender (mistake of identity). As for mistakes of act, the common view ignores that the two types of error are conventionally defined as court errors, i.e. as conditional on adjudication, and that abiding by the law reduces the probability of adjudication. This means that type-1 error exerts a lesser effect on deterrence than type-2 error. Moreover, we demonstrate that type-1 error may lead a potential offender to over-comply with the law, both when choice is binary and when it is continuous. This holds whether or not errors are defined as conditional on adjudication. As for mistakes of identity, we formalize the view that the potential offender may be falsely convicted of a crime committed by someone else whether or not he himself acts lawfully, and that type-1 error, whether or not it is defined as conditional on adjudication, therefore does not exert any direct effect on deterrence.

Keywords: Type-I errors, Wrongful Convictions, Judicial Errors, Crime and Deterrence, Torts, Accuracy

JEL Classification: K00, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Lando, Henrik and Mungan, Murat C., The Effect of Type-1 Error on Deterrence (January 28, 2015). FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 687. Available at SSRN: or

Henrik Lando

Copenhagen Business School - CBS Law ( email )

Porcelaenshave 18B, 1
Frederiksberg 2000

Murat C. Mungan (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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