Does Criminal Law Deter?

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter examines that fundamental question of whether criminal law deters. Topics discussed include the prerequisites to deterrence, aggregated-effect studies, and the possibilities and impossibilities of improving deterrent effect. It argues that given the rarity of situations in which the prerequisites of deterrence are present and of nonnegligible effect, the standard use of deterrence analysis to formulate criminal law doctrine seems wildly misguided. At the very least, deterrence analysis ought to be considered in criminal law debate only after a showing that the deterrence-prerequisite conditions might actually exist.


deterrence, aggregated-effect studies, punishment, criminal liability, deterrent effect

Publication Title

Distributive Principles of Criminal Law: Who Should be Punished How Much