Forensic Psychology

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					Forensic Psychology
            Origin of the term
   Forensic – from the Latin word “forum” –
    public gathering places in the Roman city-
    states where much of the judicial process
    took place in the form of debates – thus,
    forensic psychology deals with the
    intersection of psychology and the legal
   The professional practice by psychologists
    within the areas of clinical psychology,
    counseling psychology, neuropsychology,
    and school psychology, when they are
    engaged regularly as experts and
    represent themselves as such, in an
    activity primarily intended to provide
    professional psychological expertise to the
    judicial system.
Critical Judgments That Mental-Health
Professionals Are Asked to Make About
       People Accused of Crimes
   Whether they are competent to stand trial
   Whether they were sane at the time the
    crimes were committed.
   Clinical psychologists specializing in forensic
    psychology work with individuals who may
    present with a variety of mental illnesses and
    mental health issues within the context of the
    criminal or civil arenas of the law.
   Criminal: situations in which an individual has
    committed a crime against society
       Examples: insanity pleas, competency to stand trial,
        assessment of future violence potential, treatment of
        sex offenders
   Civil: a plaintiff believes someone else has
    physically or emotionally injured them
       Examples: personal injury suits, civil commitment
        proceedings, child custody disputes, workers
        compensation cases
      Competency to Stand Trial
   People who do not have an understanding of what is
    happening to them in a courtroom and who cannot
    participate in their own defense are said to be
    incompetent to stand trial.
   Defense attorneys suspect impaired competence in their
    clients in up to 10 percent of cases.
   Psychologists have developed tests of cognitive abilities
    important to following legal proceedings, and people
    who perform poorly on these tests.
             Insanity Defense

   Insanity is actually a legal term rather than a
    psychological or medical term, and it has
    been defined in various ways.
   All definitions of insanity reflect the
    fundamental doctrine that people cannot be
    held fully responsible for their acts if they
    were so mentally incapacitated at the time of
    the acts that they could not conform to the
    rules of society.
      Insanity Defense, continued
   While the lay public often thinks of the
    insanity defense as a means by which
    guilty people “get off,” the insanity
    defense is used much less often than the
    public tends to think.
   Fewer than 1 in 100 defendants in felony
    cases file insanity pleas, and of these only
    26% result in acquittal.
  Comparison of Public Perceptions
      of the Insanity Defense

   Persons "not guilty by
 reason of insanity" set free

    Persons "not guilty by
  reason of insanity" sent to
      mental hospitals"

   Insantiy pleas resulting in
     "not guilty by reason of

Felony indictments for which
 an insanity plea is made

                                 0   20   40           60   80   100
     Public Perception
     Insanity Defense Rules
M’Naghten Rule   At the time of the crime, the individual was
                 so affected by a disease of the mind that he
                 or she did not know the nature of the act he
                 or she was committing or did not know it
                 was wrong.

Irresistible     At the time of the crime the individual was
                 driven by an irresistible impulse to perform
Impulse Rule     the act or had a diminished capacity to
                 resist performing the act.

Durham Rule      The crime was a product of a mental
                 disease or defect.
    Insanity Defense Rules

ALI Rule         At the time of the crime, as a result of mental
                 disease or defect, the person lacked
                 substantial capacity either to appreciate the
                 criminality (wrongfulness) of the act or to
                 conform his or her conduct to the law.

APA Definition   At the time of the crime, as a result of mental
                 disease or mental retardation, the person was
                 unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or
                 her conduct.

Guilty but       Defendants convicted are incarcerated for the
                 normal terms designated fro their crimes, with
Mentally Ill     the expectation that they will also receive
                 treatment for their mental illness.
                 Civil Commitment

   Before 1969, in the U.S., the need for
    treatment was sufficient cause to hospitalize
    people against their will. Such involuntary
    hospitalization is called civil commitment.
   Since 1969, the need for treatment alone is no
    longer sufficient legal cause for civil commitment
    in most states.
    Criteria for Involuntary Commitment

   Grave Disability
   Dangerousness to Self
   Dangerousness to others
   *In many states the danger posed must be imminent.
          Involuntary Commitment and Civil
       People who have been committed to a mental
        institution often feel that they have given up all their
        civil rights.
       But numerous court cases over the years have
        established that these people retain most of the civil
        rights, and have certain additional rights due to their
        committed status.
    l      Right to Treatment
    l      Right to Refuse Treatment
         Child Custody Disputes
   Ninety percent of the time, parents who are divorcing
    can agree on the custody arrangements for their children
    without taking disputes to court.
   If parents cannot agree, however, the court must help
    determine how much authority each parent will have in
    decisions for the children and how much contact each
    parent will have with the children.
   The law requires that custody decisions be made “in the
    best interests of the child.”
      Child Maltreatment Cases
   Psychologists and other mental-health
    professionals are now involved in every
    phase of child maltreatment cases.
   The psychologist may conduct interviews
    and also testify in court.
Training in Forensic Psychology
   Few Ph.D. or Psy.D. programs offer specialty
    training in clinical-forensic psychology.
   Most clinical-forensic psychologists are
    graduates of general clinical psychology
    programs who developed their specialty later in
    their training, either on internship, by way of
    completing a forensic fellowship, or by
    independent and continuing education study.
   Students interested in becoming clinical-
    forensic psychologists should consider a
    clinical Ph.D. or Psy.D. program which
    offers a forensic specialization or enter a
    clinical doctoral program which houses a
    faculty member whose research and
    clinical interests are in the clinical-forensic
    area. Additional and more specialized
    training will occur at the internship and
    fellowship levels.
    A Note About Criminal Profiling
   Due to depictions in popular media (e.g., Silence
    of the Lambs, Profiler, CSI), many students
    express an interest in and ask questions about
    criminal profiling, which may be described as a
    criminal investigative technique based, in part,
    on psychological expertise and knowledge. In
    reality, few law enforcement agencies employ
    such techniques and there is little call for such
    professionals. Those interested in such work
    would probably do better to consider a career in
    law enforcement than clinical-forensic
   The Behavioral Sciences Unit of the FBI,
    does employ a few FBI agents who
    engage in this activity. The FBI makes a
    distinction between mental health and law
    enforcement: FBI agents are law
    enforcement professionals, not mental
    health professionals. In order to work as a
    profiler, or with the FBI in any other role,
    it is necessary to become an FBI agent.