What is Forensic Psychiatry?

Forensic psychiatry is the sub-specialty of psychiatry dealing with the interface between psychiatry and the law. Forensic psychiatrists serve as consultants and expert witnesses for civil and criminal attorneys, the judiciary, government and non-government agencies, and corporations. A forensic psychiatric evaluation often carries great weight with judges and juries in resolving a number of civil and criminal matters. Some are involved in treating individuals in correctional institutions or in mandated treatment settings.

Our Areas of Expertise

At Forensic Psychiatric Associates Medical Corporation (“fpamed”), our forensic psychiatrists can be retained as a consultant or expert witness when mental health concerns intersect with legal matters. An fpamed forensic psychiatrist can provide evaluations of:

  • Criminal responsibility (the “insanity defense”)
  • Competencies in both criminal and civil matters
  • Child custody
  • Fitness for duty
  • Dangerousness risk assessment and personal injury, including assessment of emotional trauma
  • Assessment of Populations in Multi-Plaintiff Litigation (Mass Torts)
  • Claims of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Resulting from Natural or Man-Made Catastrophes
  • Emotional Distress Resulting from Employment Disputes
  • Claims of Employment Wrongful Termination, Retaliation
  • Claims of Sexual, Gender, Ethnic, Racial, Age-Based Discrimination/Harassment
  • Claims of Abuse—Sexual, Spousal, Child, Elder, Racial, Ethnic
  • Child Custody Evaluations
  • Child Sexual Abuse Evaluations
  • Child Trauma Evaluations
  • Child Traumatic Brain Injury Evaluations
  • Psychological Testing
  • Neuropsychological and Pediatric Neuropsychological Testing
  • Claims of Excessive Use of Force by Police
  • Claims of Psychiatric/Psychological or Psychotherapeutic Malpractice
  • Claims of Boundary Violations
  • Claims of Wrongful Death from Suicide or Harmful Prescribing of Psychiatric Medication
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Issues of Substance Abuse/Addiction
  • Assessment of Testamentary Capacity/Undue Influence
  • Contractual Capacity
  • Testimonial Capacity
  • Close Head Injury/Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Issues Involving Inpatient Psychiatric Care, Psychiatric Inpatient Policies & Procedures
  • Assessment of Criminal Capacity to Testify, Enter a Plea, Cooperate with Defense
  • Assessment of Criminal Insanity

Our forensic psychiatric experts  are asked to address  questions the answers to which reside within the interface of clinical psychiatry and the law. In civil matters, this primarily involves questions of damages and causation. In criminal matters, this usually involves questions of capacity and or mitigation factors during the sentencing phase. In probate matters invariably we are asked to address questions of capacity (testamentary and/or contractual) and influences, either do or undue. To provide comprehensive answers to these questions requires the the application of psychiatric medicine, its technique and diagnostic concepts, to statutory and case law, either State or Federal. In addition, in order to offer a diagnostic opinion a forensic psychiatrist ethically must always examine the subject of his or her opinions, unless the subject is deceased, absolutely inaccessible and/or prevented from doing so by Court order. In these exceptional cases, it is imperative to review a complete set of the subject’s medical records, especially when no psychiatric examination is possible. Ideally, forensic psychiatrists rely upon data from both of these primary sources.

The Psychiatric Evaluation

A forensic psychiatric evaluation employs in-depth interview techniques of clinical psychiatry, but also relies upon collateral sources of information, addresses more prominently the possibility of malingered (feigned) psychiatric illness, and attempts to answer specific medical-legal (psychiatric) questions. The evaluation is not treatment: indeed, the need for objectivity demands that it be performed outside of a treatment relationship.

Our Ethical Code

In the United States, the practice of forensic psychiatry is governed by a strict code of ethics, derived from the Principles of Medical Ethics as codified by the American Medical Association, and as applied to psychiatric practice by the American Psychiatric Association, and further modified by the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (“AAPL”), the most prominent professional organization for Forensic Psychiatry. AAPL is a subsidiary organization of the American Psychiatric Association. The APA has its own unique Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Adherence to these codes of professional conduct helps to ensure the credibility of a forensic psychiatric evaluation and the professionalism of a forensic psychiatrist expert.