European Journal of Law and Economics

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 267–290 | Cite as

Court delays and crime deterrence

An application to crimes against property in Italy


Using Italian data in the period 1999–2002, we estimate the impact of trial delays on the willingness to commit crimes against property. However, the endogenous relationship that links the former to the latter could generate serious problems of inconsistency in the estimation procedure. Since geographical distance can be considered an exogenous determinant of the probability of belonging to peripheral courts, which are typically considered less efficient than main ones, it should represent a valid candidate instrument for trial delay. Estimates obtained by means of Two-Stage Least Squares show a significant positive effect of trials duration on crimes, supporting the hypothesis that some criminals are either sensitive to the discounting process of punishment or aware of the probability of prescription, or both. As a side result, we also find a relationship between courts’ fragmentation and trial duration. This suggests that an optimal dimension of courts is likely to exist, and that policy makers should take this into consideration in the design of the jurisdictional geography.


Crime Trial delays 

JEL Classifications

K14 K42 



I wish to thank Marianna Belloc, Matthieu Chemin, Luisa Giuriato, Matteo Manera, Donato Masciandaro, Antonio Nicita and Maurizio Pontani for useful suggestions. I am particularly indebted to Margherita Saraceno for helpful discussions. I also thank all participants at the Third Conference on Law and Economics, Copenhagen Business School, June 2005; at the Conference of the Italian Society of Law and Economics, University of Siena, November 2005; at the workshop “Lawless finance", Bocconi University, Milan, March 2006; and at the ECSPC/CIDEI Conference, Rome September 2006. The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bocconi UniversityMilanItaly
  2. 2.University of Milan-BicoccaMilanItaly

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