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Friday, January 11, 2008

Forensic psychology

Forensic psychology is the intersection between Psychology and the Criminal justice system. It is a division of applied psychology concerned with the collection, examination and presentation of psychological evidence for judicial purposes.[1]

The practice of forensic psychology involves understanding criminal law in the relevant jurisdictions in order to be able to make legal evaluations and interact appropriately with judges, attorneys and other legal professionals. An important aspect of forensic psychology is the ability to testify in court, reformulating psychological findings into the legal language of the courtroom to provide information to legal personnel in a way that can be understood.[2] Further, in order to be a credible witness, for example in the United States, the forensic psychologist must understand the philosophy, rules and standards of the American judicial system, as well as display competency in psychological practice. Primary is an understanding of the adversarial model under which the system function. There are also rules about hearsay evidence and importantly the exclusionary rule. Lack of a firm grasp of these procedures will result in the forensic psychologist losing credibility in the courtroom.[3]

A forensic psychologist can be trained in clinical, social, organizational or any other branch of psychology.[4] In the United States, the salient issue is the designation by the court as an expert witness by training, experience or both by the judge. Generally, a forensic psychologist is designated as an expert in a particular jurisdiction. The number of jurisdictions in which a forensic psychologist qualifies as an expert increases with experience and reputation.

Questions asked by the court of a forensic psychologist are generally not questions regarding psychology but are legal questions and the response must be in language the court understands. For example, a forensic psychologist is frequently appointed by the court to assess a defendant's competency to stand trial. The court also frequently appoints a forensic psychologist to assess the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the offense. This is referred to as an evaluation of the defendant's sanity or insanity (which relates to criminal responsibility) at the time of the offense.[5] These are not primarily psychological questions but rather legal ones. Thus, a forensic psychologist must be able to translate psychological information into a legal framework.[6]

Forensic psychologists also provide sentencing recommendations, treatment recommendations, and any other information the judge requests, such as information regarding mitigating factors, assessment of future risk, and evaluation of witness credibility. Forensic psychology also involves training and evaluating police or other law enforcement personal, providing law enforcement with criminal profiles and in other ways working with police departments. Forensic psychologists work both with the Public Defender, the States Attorney, and private attorneys. Forensic psychologists may also help with jury selection.[7]

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


  1. ^ What Is Forensic Psychology?. Retrieved on 2007-10-12.

  2. ^ Nietzel, Michael (1986). Psychological Consultation in the Courtroom. New York: Pergamon Press. ISBN 0-08-030955-0. 

  3. ^ Blau, Theodore H. (1984). The Psychologist as Expert Witness. New York: John Wiley & Sons, pp 19-25. ISBN 0-471-87129-X. 

  4. ^ Speciality Guidelines for for Forensic Psychologists. Retrieved on 2007-09-14.

  5. ^ a b Grisso, Thomas (1988). Competency to Stand Trial Evaluations: A Manual for Practice, 1988, Sarasota FL: Professional Resource Exchange. ISBN 0-943158-51-6. 

  6. ^ a b Shapiro, David L. (1984). Psychological Evaluation and Expert Testimony. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0-442-28183-8. 

  7. ^ Smith, Steven R. (1988). Law, Behavior, and Mental Health: Policy and Practice. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-7857-7.