The traditional view is that wrongful conviction lowers deterrence by lowering a person’s payoff for being innocent without affecting the payoff for being guilty. However, this view fails to distinguish between mistake about identity and mistake about the act. For mistake about identity, the view is incorrect, since a person who commits a criminal act will not thereby eliminate the risk of being convicted of someone else’s crime. Conviction of the wrong person may still have an effect on deterrence, but the effect can be positive as well as negative and will tend to be small, mainly because the risk of wrongful conviction is shared among many people. When the court wrongly assesses the act committed by the defendant, the traditional view is correct when the choice set of the offender is binary, while the effect on deterrence is more likely to be positive when the choice set is continuous.
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