The Optimal Evidence Threshold: Balancing the Frequency and Severity of Wrongful Punishment
41 Pages Posted: 10 May 2018
Date Written: May 2018
Prior literature argues that optimal sanctions are fixed and maximal and that the optimal evidence threshold balances the social costs of wrongful convictions (lost deterrence) and wrongful acquittals (chilling of benign behavior). This chilling argument is an externality argument. If punishment only affects the punished and there are no other externalities, the net social value of the chilled behavior is zero. Even without chilling costs, differences in how punishment affects defendants and third parties can justify non-maximal sanctions. When optimal sanctions are non-maximal, the optimal evidence threshold depends on these differences because this threshold balances the frequency against the severity of wrongful punishment.
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