Criminal Profiling

Criminal profiling, also known as psychological, personality, or offender criminal profiling, involves identifying the perpetrator of a crime by analyzing the manner in which the crime was committed and the nature of the crime itself. Criminal profiling combines information about the criminal’s personality based on all actions relevant to the crime, with other details and physical evidence. Criminal profiling gives legal officials a working description of the offender (based on the above information) when compared with the knowledge of mental abnormalities and personality types.

Criminal profiling has a long history, dating back to the 1800s when criminal anthropologists related physical attributes of a criminal to criminal psychology and people became interested in the concepts of sanity and insanity in criminal law. Criminal profiling was used in the 1940s by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to develop a criminal profile of Adolph Hitler, the German Nazi leader of World War Two. Criminal profiling has been used during wartime ever since.

In the last few decades, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law officials have used criminal profiling on serial killers and other serious offenders. The FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit was established in the 1970s. The BSU’s primary goal was to apply criminal profiling to serial criminals. Studies have found that FBI criminal profiling is relevant more than three-quarters of the time and can actually help to identify the criminal in almost one of every five cases. The FBI has used criminal profiling to study the crimes of homicide, rape, arson, sexual molestation, bombing, drug trafficking, terrorism, and other ritualistic crimes.

Criminal profiling is also used to identify the characteristics of individuals more likely to commit other crimes. It can be the FBI’s identification of thirty characteristics often possessed by airplane hijackers. Criminal profiling can be used to identify the particulars of bank accounts used to fund terrorism. Criminal profiling might also be used by highway patrol officers to pull over more minority drivers because they believe that these individuals are more likely to be drug traffickers than white individuals. As with any system that predicts the criminal actions of others based on physical or personality characteristics, criminal profiling has the potential for good and the power for misuse and abuse.

Criminal profiling is used on many levels of a criminal investigation, from the international to the local spheres of law. While used to help predict what types of people may be more likely to commit a particular crime, criminal profiling may also be misapplied to innocent individuals who may fit a particular profile in some way. There are legal rights that protect the legal use of criminal profiling and rights which protect individuals from false allegations based on criminal profiling. For more information on criminal profiling, please contact us to confer with an attorney.