Forensic psychology is a branch of psychology that applies psychological principles and techniques to legal issues and the criminal justice system.
Forensic psychologists work at the intersection of psychology and the law, using their expertise to assist in criminal and civil legal cases. They are often just as well-versed in legal matters as they are in psychology.
Psychological Evaluations may be ordered to determine whether an individual meets diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder that may affect the person's decision-making and ability to function. Referral questions can include whether an individual has cognitive deficits, some form of psychopathology, or a personality disorder. The evaluation process usually involves a review of available records, a clinical interview, and psychological testing.
Pre-Sentencing Evaluations are evaluations performed after a conviction but prior to sentencing, designed to present to the court a thorough picture of the defendant's psychological condition. Based on the results of the evaluation, mental health services may be found to be beneficial. Mitigating factors may also be identified that can reduce the severity of a sentence. So rather than time in jail, individual counseling or substance abuse treatment while on probation may be recommended.
Sex Offender Evaluations
Sex Offender Evaluations are assessments to gauge the risk of an individual committing a sexual offense in the future. If a person is found to be a low risk for sexually violent behavior, then the court is more likely to allow that person to remain in the community while waiting for trial, being sentenced, or serving their sentence (e.g., probation, community service).
Violence Risk Assessments
Forensic Psychologists use multiple instruments to assess a person's likelihood of exhibiting future acts of violence. Utilizing valid and reliable methods of predicting violence is necessary so that courts can make appropriate decisions on issues such as sentencing, granting privileges, FOID reinstatement, and community reintegration. By tailoring court decisions around accurate risk assessment, both the community and the defendant's rights are protected.
Competency to Waive Miranda Rights
In Illinois, a person must be able to knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his or her Miranda rights. Cognitive impairments and/or symptoms of a mental illness can interfere with that person's ability to adequately do so. Therefore, assessing an individual's competency to waive these Miranda rights can have a significant impact on the outcome of a criminal case.
This assessment determines whether a defendant has a mental disorder that could have affected his or her state of mind as it relates to the commission of a crime. In some cases, a person's mental state can interfere with the ability to form the necessary intent for the crime. A finding of diminished capacity does not absolve a person from culpability. However, it can be used as a plea bargaining tool or as a mitigating circumstance during sentencing.
Fitness for Duty Evaluations
The purpose of a Fitness for Duty Evaluation is to determine whether an employee is able to safely and effectively perform his or her essential job functions. If there is a reasonable suspicion that an employee has a psychological condition that interferes with work performance, this type of evaluation may be required. For example, a police officer may be referred for a Fitness for Duty Evaluation if he or she behaves in a manner that is not conducive to public safety and the safety of fellow officers.
Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) Appeal Evaluations
In the state of Illinois, the Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) Card is required for any individual who wants to possess or purchase firearms or ammunition. However, the Illinois State Police (ISP) may revoke or deny a FOID card for various reasons, such as an admission to a mental health facility or being deemed a clear and present danger. Pursuant to statute, a mental health evaluation is required for the FOID card appeal process.
An Immigration Evaluation is sometimes requested to help determine whether an individual can legally remain in the United States. For instance, an evaluation may be needed to assess the likelihood of extreme hardship or psychological distress that would be experienced by a U.S. citizen if a family member is deported by an immigration court. Pending deportations can be canceled if the potential for extremely unusual hardship is uncovered through a psychological evaluation.
Substance Abuse Assessments
In order to determine diagnoses and appropriate levels of court ordered treatment, it is necessary to assess whether an individual meets criteria for substance abuse or substance dependence. Substance abuse evaluations are often ordered in DUI cases and other crimes in which the use of alcohol or drugs may have been involved, as well as civil cases involving the custody of children.
Independent Medical Examinations
Independent Medical Examinations may be needed to determine the cause, extent, and treatment of a work-related or other injury where liability is at issue. These evaluations may also be conducted in order to determine whether an individual has reached maximum benefit from treatment or whether any permanent impairment remains after treatment.
An independent Medical Examination may be requested by an employer or an insurance carrier to obtain an independent opinion on the clinical status of an individual. Cases may involve personal injury, workers' compensation, disability determination, and malpractice issues. An objective evaluation can help to determine whether compensation is warranted.
Detection of Malingering
The American Psychiatric Association defines malingering as “the intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms, motivated by external incentives.” Some external motivations for malingering include evading criminal prosecution, avoiding occupational duties, and obtaining financial compensation. We utilize a multimodal approach designed to assess symptoms of both feigned psychopathology and cognitive function.
Competency to Stand Trial: We have extensive experience in assessing whether a defendant has the ability to adequately assist in his or her defense while also understanding the nature of the court proceedings.
Criminal Responsibility: More popularly known as a sanity evaluation, this type of assessment is geared toward determining whether an individual was able to appreciate the nature, quality or the wrongfulness of his or her acts due to a mental illness.
Expert Witness and Consultation Services
Dr. Kim has testified as an expert in clinical psychology in numerous civil and criminal cases. He has also provided file reviews and consultation services in pre-litigation and pending litigation matters both locally and nationally. His opinions have never been disqualified by any court of law.