Criminal Profiling in Court

All societies in the world are troubled by crime everyday. The general public has become very fascinated by criminals and fearful of criminal behavior. In the fight against crime, criminal profiling has been developed to aid the FBI in the capture of criminals. At the heart of criminal profiling is a combination of psychological principles and crime scene analysis. In combining both the psychological principles and crime scene analysis, it is possible to identify the likely characteristics of a perpetrator. Although this technique is very helpful, there appears to be many

contradictions and disagreements when it comes to the two types of criminal profiling. The two types of criminal profiling, inductive and deductive, are very different in many ways. The most commonly used type of criminal profiling would be deductive, due to the fact that it requires an individual to have a specialized education and training in the field at question.

Criminal Profiling in Court

Criminal profiling is a general term that describes any process of inferring distinctive personality characteristics of individuals responsible for committing criminal acts from physical and/or behavioral evidence. The FBI defines criminal investigative analysis as an investigative process that identifies the major personality and behavioral characteristics of the offender based on the crimes he or she has committed. Profiles are known to work best when the offender displays obvious psychopathology, such as sadistic torture, postmortem mutilation or pedophilia. A profile can offer helpful information that includes the offender’s general age range, racial identity, ideas about the modus operandi, estimates about living situation, education level, travel patterns, the possibility of a criminal or psychiatric record, and probable psychological traits. When criminal profilers examine materials in the trial phase of a case, they are forensic examiners whether they care to be or not. The duties are profiler include, but are not limited to evaluating the criminal act itself, evaluating the specifics of the crime scene, analyzing the victim, evaluating the preliminary police reports, evaluating the medical examiner’s autopsy report, developing the profile with critical offender characteristics and investigating suggestions on the construction of the profile. In completing these duties, there are two types of profiling one could follow. The most common and useful form of profiling is known as deductive profiling. Deductive profiling concerns itself with the particular

behavioral evidence of a case as the physical evidence has established it. The process of interpreting forensic evidence, including such inputs as crime scene photos, autopsy reports/photos, and a thorough study of individual offender victimology. Deductive profiling is deduced from the careful forensic examination and behavioral reconstruction of a single offender’s crime scene. There are many advantages of using deductive profiling as opposed to inductive profiling. Deductive profiling requires specialized education and training in forensic science, crime reconstruction, and wound pattern analysis. Because it thoroughly explores victimology and the nature of the interaction between the victim(s), crime scene(s), and the offender, it can very pointedly demonstrate an individual offender’s motivations and in even the most bizarre senseless offenses. One major advantage of deductive profiling is that is examines behaviors of individual offenders as they occur over time. By examining the behaviors over time, it allows for change and growth to arrive and the analysis is recompiled back into the criminal profile. Along with the advantages are the disadvantages of deductive profiling. It is not a quick fix or a cure all. The technique requires a great deal of effort and multidisciplinary skill on the part of each member of the investigative team. The process of deductive profiling is extremely emotionally exhausting and it cannot point out a specific known individual and say with confidence that they are likely responsible for a certain crime or series of crimes unless that offender’s unique signature is known and already established. Many people have assumptions about deductive profiling in that the offender acts without motivation. Profilers using deductive profiling believe that all human behavior develops

uniquely, over time, in response to environmental and biological factors. In believing that, profilers also feel that some offenders have unique motivations and/or behaviors that should be individuated from other similar offenders. One example of deductive profiling as follows: the body of a female victim is found nude in a remote forest location with four shallow, careful incisions on the chest and cutting across the nipples. The victim’s genital areas have all been removed with a sharp instrument and petechia are evident in the eyes, neck, and face. No clothing or blood is found at the crime scene. The victim bears ligature furrows around her wrists with abraded contusions, but no ligature is present. There are fresh tire impressions found in the mud, approximately twenty yards from where the body is located. Involving that case, the established deductive profile would conclude: The offender in this particular offense bound the victim to restrain her while she was still alive, indicated by the abrasions around her wrists associated with struggling. The offender removed the ligature before disposing of the body, indicated by the fact that no ligature was found at the crime scene. The victim was likely asphyxiated with a material ligature about the neck, indicated by the pattern compression and the petechia. The location where the body was found is a disposal site and not the actual location of the offense, indicated by the fact that no blood was present at this location. The offender has a vehicle consistent with the tire impressions and is mobile. All of these details together indicate a competent, intelligent offender whom is likely able to sustain employment, and is likely a sexual sadist. This is deductively suggested by the vehicle, the use of secondary scene to dispose of the body to avoid transfer evidence, the removal of the victim’s

clothing, and the deliberate cutting of the victim’s nipples to cause pain but not seriously injure. Inductive profiling is also known as statistical profiles and are nothing more than weakly supported generalizations that have little or rational bearing on the issues before the court. It is a very easy tool to use and does not require any specialized forensic knowledge, education or training in the study of criminal behavior. Inductive profiles can be assembled in a short period of time without any great effort or ability. Although it is not the most reliable for all situations, inductive profiling can be useful for thoroughly establishing MO behavior, as well as offender signature. There are many disadvantages of inductive profiling, which is why many agencies don’t use it. The information is generalized from limited population samples and not specifically related to any case. The profiles are averaged from limited data and collected only from known, apprehended offenders. The inductive profile does not fully or accurately take into account current offenders who are at large, or the criminals who are successfully continuing to avoid detection by law enforcement. With so many disadvantages comes many assumptions about inductive profiling. Many profilers using this technique assume that small groups of known offenders who commit the same types of crimes as unknown offenders have commonly shared individual characteristics that can be accurately generalized back to initially similar individual unknown offenders. Another assumption associated with inductive profiling is that offenders who have committed crimes in the past are culturally similar to current offenders, being influence by at least similar environmental conditions and existing with the same general and sometimes specific motivations. One example of

inductive profiling is as follows: eighty percent of known serial killers that attack college students in parking lots are white makes age twenty-thirty five years old who live with their mothers and drive Volkswagen Bugs. The offender has attacked at least three female college students on separate occasions; the offender has attacked all three victims in parking lots. The inductive profile concludes that the offender, who is park of this large group who fits “serial killers” is a white male, age twenty- thirty five, lives with his mother and drives a Volkswagen Bug. The profile is formed to show basically all statistical information. In using both types of profiling there are problems that arise from both of them. Some profilers have ignorance about the nature of criminal profiling and physical evidence in general. The lack of restraint with which many criminal profilers give their opinions instead of facts. An early case study involving Richard Trenton Chase, also known as the “Vampire of Sacramento”, was quickly identified and apprehended with the help of a psychological profile in 1978. Mr. Chase had murdered a woman in her home, eviscerating her and drinking her blood. The crime was so brutal that the FBI was called in and gave the profilers a chance to show what they were worth. Agents Robert Ressler and Russ Vorpagel developed independent profiles that helped to catch Mr. Chase. His arrest stopped a string of murders, that apparently from marks on his calendar were to include forty-four victims in the same year. Without the technique of criminal profiling, no one is sure whether or not Mr. Chase would have been apprehended.


Although many people in today’s society can watch television and see shows that involve criminal profiling, it can be a huge misunderstanding of what profiling can truly achieve. Criminal profilers operating in the sensitive area of criminal investigations receive greater public attention and therefore, will have to display caution in the conclusions they draw in a case. A lack of clarity remains between the differing profiling fractions in relation to the application of the technique in criminal investigations. It is always important to recognize that the results of the profiling process are only as competent as the original investigative efforts and processes which provide, or in many cases fail to provide, the physical evidence fro which criminal behavior is reconstructed.