Forensic psychiatry is a sub-specialty of psychiatry that focuses on the interface of mental health and law. Forensic psychiatrists offer consultation in various legal matters and sometimes offer expert testimony in civil and criminal legal cases. Forensic psychiatrists also work with perpetrators and victims in legal cases.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (M.D.) trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders and prescribe medications. Forensic psychiatrists have additional training and experience related to mental health and the law. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology offers a subspecialty board examination in Forensic Psychiatry to psychiatrists who have first completed a one-year full-time fellowship in forensic psychiatry. Forensic psychiatrists frequently interact with attorneys, judges, and jurors in the courtroom and offer expert testimony in legal proceedings. A forensic psychiatrist may offer his or her expertise in areas such as assessment of criminal insanity, or discrimination based on sex, gender, ethnic or racial make-up, and age, capacity to make or change a will, and emotional damages such as posttraumatic stress disorder in addition to many other areas.  

Forensic psychology is the intersection between law and psychology. It requires an understanding of fundamental legal principles as well as the legal language of the courtroom, and an ability to translate psychological findings into that language. Forensic psychologists select, administer and interpret psychological test data to educate attorneys and jurors in litigation. The employ both psychological and neuropsychological test instruments, depending upon the questions they are asked to address.

Psychologists study and evaluate how people think, feel, and behave. They often work in clinical and counseling settings and in some states such as California are required to have a doctorate degree in psychology (PhD, PsyD). Forensic psychologists are specially trained to interact with attorneys, judges, and jurors in order to provide expert opinions in criminal or civil legal proceedings. They have additional law training and are often designated as witnesses in their particular area(s) of expertise, such as neuropsychology, clinical psychology, or social psychology.

Forensic experts offer special insight into matters of mental health, medicine, and other areas. Attorneys and judges frequently seek consultation from professionals in a wide variety of fields—these individuals are generally referred to as “experts” or “expert witnesses.” An attorney may hire a forensic psychiatrist to help decide whether to file suit, or to develop expert opinions about questions of capacity (e.g. criminal insanity) and/or psychological injury.  In some cases, forensic experts are called as witnesses during a trial.