The Context of the Crime
Psychology of Criminal Behavior
Instead of strictly exploring legal topics like most law blogs, regurgitating much of the same legal jargon and Appeal Court decisions, this site will focus on the criminal justice system from a different perspective. The purpose of this blog will be to explore topics in the area of forensic psychology, the processes of the legal system, specifically the criminal justice system, with the knowledge of the psychological concepts and findings in mind; in other words, the psychology of criminal behavior. This post will focus on why the context matters when dealing with a criminal charge.
Knowing the psychology of the criminal mind and the psychological processes that contribute to a criminal offense is just as important, if not more important, than the written laws, or the interpretation of them. Adequately trying a case, whether in the perspective of the state or federal prosecutor, or the criminal defense attorney, requires at least some ability to step into the suspect’s shoes in order to convince the jury and to reach the sought after verdict.
Keep in mind throughout this discussion and future posts the role aggravating and mitigating circumstances play in a criminal case in determining the appropriate charge; the psychological state of the individual matters in a criminal case. For example, cases of homicide; whether or not there was premeditation or intent determines whether someone is charged with murder, or other forms of homicide such as manslaughter. This is just a simple example of the significant role the psychological state of an otherwise normal individual plays in determining punishment.
Are All Criminals The Same?
There are different kinds of criminals, and the judicial system should take them into consideration when determining how to deal with them.
1) An ordinary individual driven to crime by
some arguably overwhelming external circumstance.
2) A seemingly normal individual when gets caught up in an impulse they have no control over.
3) The neurotic individual who is also driven by irresistible forces, but they may be unconscious and the reasons for the urge may be unknown. This individual considers these urges as unfamiliar and may try to resist playing them out.
4) The anti-social individual who enjoys committing criminal acts or causing harm to others
5) An individual whose criminal behavior is due to an illness or an organic brain injury.
Although the field of psychology does have some influence in criminal procedure and sentencing, for the most part, the criminal justice system as it is today is more focused on the crime that was committed and holding people responsible for their actions, rather than why the crime was committed.
Context matters. Can we really hold someone responsible for a crime if his or her brain never even had the capacity(#5) to choose to act otherwise? It is common error of thought to believe people have free will in choosing how to behave; in reality, we have free will to behave within the boundaries of our own mind; the structure and function of the brain determines our area of potential, and we are free to choose to act in ways that fit within that area.
In future posts, I will go into more detail on these above-mentioned topics and will explore various aspects of the criminal mind.