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Risk Assessment Test - Abel Assessment

As we've discussed elsewhere. One of the methods used to negotiate a settlement with the prosecution is to have the accused undergo a professional "risk assessment" evaluation in order to show the prosecution that the accused is a low risk to reoffend. The analyst subjects the accused to a number of psychological tests and a polygraph test in an effort to come up with the risk analysis. Any assessment of future risk is imperfect, but without some result from the analysis a prosecutor may not be willing to take the chance that the accused individual is not a repeat offender.

If a risk assessment or psycho-sexual evaluation is to have any impact on the prosecutor during plea negotiations, it must include some indication of where the test subject's sexual interests lie. Are they completely normal? Is there a mild deviancy where there is some secondary interest in non-normative sexual activity? Or is there a primary interest in non-normative sexual activity?

This has been an age old question in evaluating those accused of sex offenses. But the problem is how best to determine the nature of the subjects sexual interest? This process is fraught with problems because the instruments used to determine the primary sexual interest of a subject are so imperfect. The doctors and prosecutors (reasonably sometimes) refuse to rely purely on a self-reported description of sexual interests because the subject would have an incentive to deny non-normative interests. The instruments they use, though, don't do that much better.

In the past, the main instrument used to determine sexual interest was the penile plethysmograph. This method would essentially involve the attachment of a monitor to the subject's genitals. With the monitor attached, the subject would be shown pictures of various people and things. If the subject had a genital response to the picture, the test would dictate that the subject had some sexual interest in the picture.

Fortunately, most analysts now eschew the use of the penile plethysmograph in favor of the administration of the Abel Assessment for Sexual Interest, the AASI (among other potentially corroborative tests). The AASI is also an imperfect measure of sexual interest, but it is successful at avoiding the obvious problems inherent in the aforementioned alternatives.

The test consists of the usual questions and answers. But, most importantly, like the plethysmograph before it, it attempts to measure interest by analyzing how the subject views a variety of pictures. It measures the picture response in two ways. First, the subject self-reports to what extent he is sexually interested in the subject of the picture. Second, the amount of time the subject takes to look at each picture is measured and interpreted.

It's fair to question how closely time spent looking at a picture correlates to a sexual interest in the subject of the picture. It sure does beat the plethysmograph.

If you have been charged with a sex crime in Phoenix, do not hesitate to get in touch with our office immediately. Our Phoenix sex crime defense attorney can strive to get you a positive verdict by creating a strong defense on your behalf. Call our office today!

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