Convictions versus Conviction Rates: The Prosecutor's Choice
Manu Raghav () and
John Ramseyer ()
American Law and Economics Review, 2009, vol. 11, issue 1, 47-78
It is natural to suppose that a prosecutor's conviction rate--the ratio of convictions to cases prosecuted--is a sign of his competence. Prosecutors, however, choose which cases to prosecute. If they prosecute only the strongest cases, they will have high conviction rates. Any system that pays attention to conviction rates, as opposed to the number of convictions, is liable to abuse. As a prosecutor's budget increases, he allocates it between prosecuting more cases and putting more effort into existing cases. Either can be socially desirable, depending on particular circumstances. We model the tradeoffs theoretically in two models, one of a benevolent social planner and one of a prosecutor who values not just the number of convictions but the conviction rate and unrelated personal goals. We apply the model to U.S. data drawn from county-level crime statistics and a survey of all state prosecutors by district. Conviction rates do have a small negative correlation with prosecutorial budgets, but conditioning on other variables in regression analysis, higher budgets are associated both with more prosecutions and higher conviction rates. Copyright 2009, Oxford University Press.
References: Add references at CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (19) Track citations by RSS feed
Downloads: (external link)
Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.
Working Paper: Convictions versus Conviction Rates: The Prosecutor’s Choice (2008)
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.
Export reference: BibTeX
RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan)
Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:11:y:2009:i:1:p:47-78
Ordering information: This journal article can be ordered from
Access Statistics for this article
American Law and Economics Review is currently edited by Hon. Richard A. Posner
More articles in American Law and Economics Review from Oxford University Press Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, UK.
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Oxford University Press ( this e-mail address is bad, please contact ) and Christopher F. Baum ().