Evaluating Admissions Against Self-Interest

Written By: Reid
Jan 15, 2013
It is not uncommon for suspects to make admissions against self-interest during an interview. They may acknowledge being in the area of the crime, having a motive to commit the crime, having a prior conviction, and many other statements that are unfavorable with respect to the suspect's innocence. During the recent presidential debates we heard the following two statements:

"My opponent has plenty of legitimate issues to attack me on, but instead, he makes up fictitious issues."

"To do things over, I should have worked harder to elicit bi-partisan support for the legislation."

Both statements represent an admission against self-interest but one is more typical of a truthful statement, the other a deceptive statement. This web tip will offer guidelines to interpret admissions against self-interest.

Rule #1: When an admission against self-interest is offered as a spontaneous and direct response to an interview question this would be typical of an innocent suspect as the following dialogues illustrates:

Q: "John, who would have had the best opportunity to steal narcotics from the cabinet if they wanted to?"

A: "Employees with keys. The head nurse has a key. Doug the PA has a key and I do."

Q: "Jeff have you and Julie had any arguments?"

A: "Oh yeah. Especially recently it seems that most of our dates ended in an argument, usually about my work schedule and future plans."

The first suspect could easily have chosen to conceal the fact that he had keys to the narcotics cabinet and the second could have withheld the information about arguments with his girlfriend. However, this information was revealed to the investigator because both suspects came prepared to tell the truth during the interview - even if the truth put the suspect in a negative light.

Rule #2: When an admission against self-interest is designed to explain away incriminating evidence it is typical of the guilty suspect. This is especially true when the admission contradicts an earlier denial.

Q: "Paul, if we reviewed the surveillance video showing the outside the bank last Friday afternoon, is there any reason it would show you in front of the bank? (Earlier during the interview the suspect stated that he was ten miles away from the bank last Friday afternoon.)

A: "You said last Friday? "Let me think about this..." "You know, I was on that side of town last Friday and I think I did walk by this bank you're telling me about."

Unlike the previous suspects who volunteered incriminating evidence when initially asked about it during the interview, this suspect acknowledged being at the crime scene only as an effort to explain away possibly incriminating evidence.

Rule #3: A suspect who acknowledges engaging in a particular behavior but denies wrongful intent is often guilty. This is a common strategy where guilty suspects will offer some admission against self-interest as an innocent explanation for the crime they committed, as the following examples illustrate:

(Arson) "You know, I was smoking in the garage that night and I'll bet my cigarette accidentally caught something on fire after I went to bed." In truth, the suspect poured lighter fluid on the wall and started the wall on fire.

(Theft) "I'm afraid that I'm the one responsible for that missing deposit because if it fell off the desk and into the waste basket, I emptied the trash that night. I probably threw it away and didn't even know it." The suspect, in fact, placed the deposit in her purse and walked out of the building with it.

(Child Molestation) "I was playing with my grand-daughter over the weekend and we were both on the ground wrestling. When we were doing that my hand may have inadvertently gone down the front of her pants. That has to be what she's talking about." The suspect, in fact, fondled the victim's vaginal area when he put her to bed that night.

Rule #4: An admission against self-interest may be an effort by the guilty suspect to manipulate the investigator. The suspect believes that by acknowledging some unrelated act of wrong-doing, the investigator will find his denial to the incident under investigation more credible. The following examples illustrate this:

Q: "Joe, did you rob Jakes liquor store last night?"

A: "I'll admit that I have pulled some robberies in the past but I served my time for those. Believe me, I wouldn't risk going back to jail."

Q: "Mary did you change the quantity on this prescription?"

A: "I have altered grades on papers in high school and signed other people's signature but I wouldn't do something this serious."

In analyzing these two responses, not only have the suspects failed to offer a definitive denial to the investigator's question, they also included a gratuitous admission against self-interest to help "sell" their innocence concerning committing the crime under investigation. This is the same tactic utilized by the presidential candidate mentioned at the outset of this article.

In conclusion, admissions against self-interest, like many other behaviors, can be an indication of either guilt or innocence depending on the context of the behavior and other variables. The investigator should listen for admissions against self-interest during an interview and use them as one of many possible behavior symptoms to reveal a suspect's probable guilt or innocence.

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