What Is Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology is the application of the science of psychology to legal issues. The word “forensic” comes from the Latin word “forensis”, meaning “of the forum” and relates the Forum in ancient Rome where the earliest courts were held.

The practice of Forensic Psychology is focused on the interface between psychology and the law. It is a means by which psychologists and psychiatrists apply their science and research to legal questions. In most cases psychologists and psychiatrists seek to aid the trier of fact by offering expert opinion in a court of law. When doing so they take measures to insure that the opinion they offer is as objective as possible and do not offer opinions that are merely possible. They are diligent in their practice to insure that they do not offer opinions that are subjective or speculative. Opinions are only given if they can be done with a reasonable degree of psychological or medical certainty.

Psychologists and Psychiatrists have been long accepted as experts by the courts. They apply their trade in a number of legal matters in both criminal and civil law.

Criminal law issues frequently addressed include:

  • Sanity
  • Criminal Responsibility or Mens Rea (guilty mind)
  • Trial Competency
  • Waiver of Miranda rights
  • Death penalty mitigation
  • Battered Woman Syndrome
  • Domestic Violence
  • Drug Dependence
  • Sexual disorders

Civil law issues frequently addressed include:

  • Personal Injury including psychological injuries and brain injuries
  • Child custody
  • Employment discrimination
  • Sexual harassment
  • Mental disability
  • Product liability
  • Professional malpractice
  • Civil commitment
  • Guardianship
  • Workers compensation
  • Psychological Autopsies