A mitigating circumstance is a factor that may lessen the severity of an act or a defendant’s culpability for the action. Mitigating circumstances can be found in criminal and civil cases. A mitigation evaluation involves a thorough assessment of a defendant’s life history and current functioning. Mitigation evaluations are not utilized to determine criminal culpability but instead aim to provide insight into how the defendant’s life experiences have shaped his or her development.
Competency To Stand Trial
Although competency standards vary across jurisdictions, most standards require that a defendant have the ability to understand and participate in the court proceedings. Depending on the jurisdiction, Competency to Stand Trial may also be referred to as Competence To Stand Trial, Competence To Proceed, or Fitness to Proceed (juvenile court).
Competency to Waive Miranda Rights
Psychologists assess whether there are any cognitive problems or mental health disorders that may have impaired the defendant’s ability to waive Miranda rights knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. Often, these evaluations are conducted to gain insight into the individual’s Competency to Confess or the validity of a Miranda waiver. These evaluations typically involve interviews and a review of records. Psychological tests are usually administered to assess the individual’s intelligence, adaptive abilities, and Miranda rights comprehension.
Sanity Evaluations explore a defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged offense. The affirmative defense of insanity requires a defendant to demonstrate he or she was suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time of the alleged offense(s) which would have significantly impaired the defendant’s ability to know the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of their alleged act(s).
Waiver to Criminal Court
Waiver to criminal court refers to the transfer of a juvenile to adult court. Depending on the jurisdiction, the purpose of the mental health evaluation may entail assessing for mental retardation with intellectual disability and exploring the maturity and sophistication of the Defendant. The evaluations often require the administration of psychological tests of personality, intelligence, adaptive ability, and academic achievement.
Malingering and Deception
Malingering is the intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms motivated by external incentives. Motivation for exaggerated or feigned mental health symptoms is inherent to forensic evaluations. We conduct a thorough clinical interview, document behavioral observations, and critically review available records to identify inconsistencies and unusual reported symptoms or behaviors. Psychological tests designed to detect feigning and exaggeration are frequently employed.
Expert Witness Testimony
As an expert witness, a forensic psychologist can provide testimony to help shed light on scientific or technical matters concerning the psychological issues in a case or serve as a rebuttal witness to another expert. Because forensic psychologists are, first and foremost, licensed psychologists who apply their specialized knowledge of clinical psychology to psycho-legal matters, we provide testimony in a manner consistent with the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, as well as the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology.