Can Making It Harder to Convict Criminals Ever Reduce Crime?
22 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2014 Last revised: 11 Mar 2015
Date Written: January 2004
This paper attempts to find the optimal level of the burden of proof needed in criminal cases in order to minimize crime. It also aims to provide an explanation for the higher burden of proof required in criminal cases than civil cases. It assumes that police officers receive incentive payments for convictions in cases they investigate. Although the direct effect of a higher burden of proof requirement is to reduce the probability of conviction, the indirect effect is to force police officers to build stronger cases and put more effort into finding suspects who are more likely to be guilty. Moreover, the increase in the marginal probability of conviction potential criminals face when they actually commit a crime increases. These factors imply that a reduction in the burden of proof will not necessarily reduce crime.
Keywords: crime, incentives, law enforcement
JEL Classification: K4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation