Criminal Law

The Criminal Profiling Process

Law enforcement uses a number of different methods and tools to help solve crimes. One process that has gained great attention in modern times is called criminal profiling. This method is especially useful in solving violent crimes, including abductions, sexual assaults and murders.

What's Criminal Profiling?

Criminal profiling, or offender profiling, is the process of identifying the mindset and characteristics of an unknown criminal. Investigators examine the crime scene and the nature of the crime. The investigators attempt to determine the type of person the criminal is based on all the evidence and circumstances of the crime. This investigation method goes all the way back to the infamous Jack the Ripper case in England.

Evidence Used for Criminal Profiling

Almost every factor related to a crime is used in criminal profiling. No detail is too small for most investigators. Some of the most important information used in criminal profiling includes:

  • Forensic evidence
  • Crime scene characteristics
  • Victim characteristics

Benefits of Criminal Profiling

Criminal profiling helps law enforcement determine the type of person they should be looking for. Valuable time can be saved by narrowing down possible suspects. The information gained from profiling may indicate behavior patterns. This can be used to predict where the criminal lives or where any future crimes may be located.

Criminal Profiling Procedure

There are multiple steps involved in criminal profiling. The first step is to gather all the information about the crime. The police need to be thorough when collecting evidence.

The next step is to answer relevant questions with the evidence. These questions can range from basic to complex. Some examples of questions include:

  • Where did the crime take place?
  • How violent was the crime?
  • What type of risk did the criminal take?
  • What was the primary motive for the crime?

Patterns can start to form as these questions are answered. Using this information, an assessment of the crime is made. Investigators will attempt to determine details about the behavior of the criminal and the victim from the answers. The personality of the criminal is determined by answering questions about his behavior at four phases:

  • Antecedent - the fantasies and plans he had before the crime
  • Method and manner - the way he committed the crime
  • Body disposal - whether the body remained or was removed from the scene of the crime
  • Post-offense behavior - his actions after the crime was committed

Finally, a criminal profile is created using all the information. This profile will describe the most likely suspects that committed the crime. Some examples of information found in a criminal profile include:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Psychological characteristics
  • Religious beliefs
  • Intelligence

Flaws of Criminal Profiling

The use of criminal profiling is controversial. Many people don't trust profiling. They don't think it's effective since it isn't an exact science. People are unpredictable and don't fall into definable categories.

One danger is stereotyping. This means automatically believing something about a person based solely on a small number of characteristics. False criminal profiles may be created by the police if they're based solely on stereotyping.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What are the benefits and dangers of criminal profiling?
  • Can the police arrest a person based solely on a criminal profile?
  • How accurate have criminal profiles been in the past?
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