Optimal Warning Strategies: Punishment Ought Not to Be Inflicted Where the Penal Provision Is Not Properly Conveyed
Review of Law & Economics
Law enforcers frequently issue warnings, as opposed to sanctions, when they detect first-time offenders. However, virtually all of the law and economics literature dealing with optimal penalty schemes for repeat offenders suggest that issuing warnings is a sub-optimal practice. Another observed phenomenon is the joint use of warnings and sanctions in law enforcement: person A may receive a sanction, whereas person B is only warned for committing the same offense. This situation can be explained through the use of hybrid warning strategies, a concept not yet formalized in the law enforcement literature, where law enforcers issue warnings to and sanctions to of first-time offenders. This article uses a two-period optimal deterrence model to provide a rationale as to why it may be optimal to issue warnings. When uninformed individuals are present and their punishment is assumed to be costly, there is a trade-off between such costs and reduced levels of deterrence. Depending on the cost structure associated with the punishment of uninformed individuals, warning strategies, including hybrid ones, may be optimal. A secondary contribution of this article is to point out that lack of information concerning laws may lead to optimal escalating punishments for repeat offenders.
Murat C. Mungan,
Optimal Warning Strategies: Punishment Ought Not to Be Inflicted Where the Penal Provision Is Not Properly Conveyed,
Rev. L. & Econ.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/facscholar/1877