Economics Research Seminar | Weatherhead School at Case Western Reserve University

Economics Research Seminar

Does the punishment fit the crime?

Abstract:  We study police discretion over sanctions for speeding offenses. Highway patrol officers routinely reduce speeding punishments by manipulating offenders’ charged speeds. First, we document that punishment decisions have important effects on future driving behavior. Levering variation in lenience across officers for identification, we find that a 100 dollar increase in fines reduces the likelihood of a new speeding offense in the following year by about seven percent. Given that punishments affect behavior, we then combine a model of officer decisions with an analysis of marginal treatment effects to examine whether officers allocate punishments to maximize safety. We find that officers face a tradeoff between two competing law enforcement objectives, deterrence and retribution. Offenders most likely to be punished harshly have higher reoffending levels but lower reoffending responses, suggesting that officers prioritize retribution by allocating sanctions based on expected offending at the expense of targeting sanctions towards more deterrable offenders.


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ID: 96129367904

Passcode: cKl1wE19


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Passcode: 86221454


Passcode: 86221454


Please join the Economics Department for a research seminar.  This event is open to all Case Western Reserve University  faculty, Ph.D. students, economic majors and minors, and those interested in economics research.  Contact Teresa Kabat at or 216.368.4110 for additional information.

Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Peter B. Lewis Building
11119 Bellflower Road
Cleveland, OH 44106-7235
United States
Speaker(s): Steve Mello, Dartmouth University
Sponsored by: Economics Department


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