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Psychological Evaluation

What is a Psychological Evaluation?

Psychological Evaluations are the most common – and perhaps most significant – forensic psychological service we provide for criminal law cases. They provide an objective assessment of an individual’s mental state, behaviors, and other factors potentially relevant to the alleged crime, court proceedings, and sentencing.


This comprehensive evaluation is completed by a licensed forensic psychologist. These experts are trained in both psychology and the law, specializing in the process of applying theories and principles of psychology to legal matters within the court system.

Who Needs a Psychological Evaluation?

Psychological Evaluations may be required, or court ordered for certain individuals facing criminal charges. In these cases, acquiring a Psychological Evaluation is mandatory.

Even when it is not court mandated, acquiring a Psychological Evaluation may be beneficial. By providing objective insight into an individual’s mental and behavioral health, they ensure a fair and equitable criminal case in which these factors are taken into consideration.

Purpose of Psychological Evaluations in Criminal Law

A Psychological Evaluation is a comprehensive process of evaluating an individual's complete psychological profile. Some relevant factors include:  

  • Mental state

  • Cognitive functioning

  • Emotional well-being

  • Potential psychiatric conditions

Forensic psychologists then apply their findings to the legal case at hand to provide expert testimony and informed recommendations. The results from a Psychological Evaluation can impact court proceedings and sentencing.

Benefits of Psychological Evaluations


Assessing Mental State at the Time of Alleged Offense

One of the key components of Psychological Evaluations is determining the accused’s mental state at the time of the alleged offense. Considered factors include: 

  • Intent

  • Capacity

  • Sanity

The identification and definition of these factors are critical in criminal law proceedings, affecting the legal outcome and sentencing. 


Determining Competency or Fitness to Stand Trial

To ensure a fair trial for all involved, there can be no question about the accused individual’s ability to understand and participate in the criminal justice system and court proceedings.


Psychological Evaluations can help determine an individual’s mental capacity, providing objective and definitive insight into an individual's competency or fitness to stand trial


Assessing Criminal Responsibility in Insanity Pleas

When an individual pleads insanity, it is of the utmost importance to validate this claim in order to determine criminal responsibility.

In these cases, a Psychological Evaluation from a trained forensic psychologist can serve to assess and determine whether the accused individual was legally insane at the time of the offense, ensuring a fair trial for all.


Assessing Risk of Future Criminal Behavior


When it has been ruled that the accused has committed a crime, it is important to determine that individual’s risk of committing future criminal behavior or violence. The answer to this question can help inform decisions regarding:


  • Sentencing

  • Parole

  • Probation


Psychological Evaluations can aid in this decision-making process by providing a professional and objective assessment of risk factors.


Identifying Mitigating Factors Affecting Sentencing


In the sentencing phase, it is the job of the court to determine the appropriate penalty for the committed crime.


During a Psychological Evaluation, forensic psychologists may uncover mitigating factors relevant to the crime committed. Factors such as mental health issues, trauma, or substance abuse, for example, may lead to more lenient sentencing once discovered and considered.


Providing Expert Testimony


Findings from Psychological Evaluations can be presented as expert testimony in the court. Their professional, comprehensive, and objective nature make them highly valuable when used in this capacity, often influencing both the judge and jury. 


Recommending Mental Health Treatment


One of the goals of Psychological Evaluations is to uncover underlying mental health concerns. If discovered, forensic psychologists may recommend appropriate mental health treatment or interventions.


The recommendation of additional mental health services is important not only for the accused individual, but also for the community at large. These resources may contribute to rehabilitation and reduced recidivism, leading to better outcomes and less likelihood of future crimes being committed.


Supporting the Use of Diversion Programs


In some cases, findings from Psychological Evaluations may support the argument to divert individuals from the criminal justice system and toward mental health or rehabilitation programs.


The goal of diversion programs is to provide individuals who have underlying mental or behavioral health issues with the resources they need to prevent future crimes and promote a healthier, safer community.


Managing Potential for Violence or Harm


Another key component of Psychological Evaluations is assessing an individual’s potential for future violence or harm. The conclusions drawn from these assessments can aid in risk management and decision-making within the correctional system, resulting in better outcomes for all involved.

Get a Criminal Law Psychiatric Evaluation


Psychological Evaluations play a pivotal role in criminal law cases. Working with an experienced forensic psychologist that you trust ensures an objective understanding of an individual’s:


  • Mental state

  • Competence

  • Criminal responsibility

  • Risk factors


The findings from these comprehensive assessments help result in a fair and just resolution by ensuring that these factors are considered within the context of the criminal case, which includes during sentencing, parole, and probation.


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