We offer a broad range of court-related evaluations. Inquiries about forensic cases should be directed to: forensic@saarpsychologicalgroup.com.

Types of Forensic Cases:

Competency to Stand Trial

Competency to stand trial or adjudicative competency evaluations assess the extent to which an individual possesses sufficient present capability to communicate with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against him. In cases of incompetency, treatment recommendations and prognosis for the restoration of competency are offered.

Criminal Responsibility/Diminished Capacity

Criminal responsibility evaluations look at possible legal insanity at the time of an alleged offense. Insanity refers to situations in which, by virtue of mental disease or defect, a defendant lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. Diminished capacity evaluations look at the extent to which an individual who was not legally insane at the time of an offense might nonetheless have been so impaired as to lack the capacity to form the intent requisite to many crimes.

Sex Offender/Violence Risk

The judicial and/or correctional systems often have an interest in determining mental health treatment needs and the likelihood of future sexual or violent recidivism. These exclusions can offer evaluations of acute clinical and actuarial risk that meaningfully place offenders into higher and lower risk categories. Recommendations can also address issues such as appropriateness for community management vs. incarceration, level of community supervision, and necessary restrictions upon behavior in the community.

Miranda Waiver/Validity of Confession

Miranda waiver evaluations focus upon the extent to which a defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily gave up his Miranda rights (e.g., the right to remain silent) and talked to police. Should the court find that Miranda was not appropriately waived, a statement or confession given to police might be excluded from consideration in court. Additionally, psychological research has demonstrated that it is not necessarily difficult to coerce inaccurate confessions, whether deliberately or inadvertently. Confessions necessarily constitute damning evidence in court, regardless of whether or not they are truthful. Forensic psychological evaluations can examine characteristics of the individual and situation that might bear upon the validity of a confession.

Juvenile Offenders

Juvenile offenders may require evaluation for many of the same reasons as adults. Competency to stand trial and criminal responsibility evaluations, sex offender risk evaluations, and dispositional (i.e., treatment need) evaluations are among the most common. Juvenile transfer waiver evaluations focus upon factors relevant to legal decisions as to whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult.

Validity of Abuse Disclosure

Unfortunately, not all allegations of abuse are truthful. Factors such as miscommunication, suggestibility, fantasy, coaching, exposure to negative characterizations of the accused parent, and willful manipulation by the child can all lead to inaccurate reporting. While deferring ultimate determinations of the credibility of abuse allegations to the court, forensic psychological evaluations in these cases focus on clinical factors known to be related to the validity of disclosures of child abuse. These evaluations usually involve direct assessment of the child, interviews with the parents, and substantial record review.

Our work in this area allows us to provide trial consultation on the validity of child abuse disclosures, even if it is not possible to conduct our own evaluation of the child.

Child Abuse and Neglect Evaluations

Child abuse and neglect evaluations are court-ordered evaluations as a result of suspicions or allegations of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect.  Each evaluation is tailored to the unique circumstances of the case but typically include an interview of the child, psychological testing, collateral interviews (e.g.  current guardian/caretaker, parenting provider/visitation supervisor, treating therapist etc…) and review of records.  These evaluations can assess for factors related to credibility as well as trauma.  Because credibility is often an issue that arises in allegations of abuse/neglect we utilize forensically sensitive interview techniques. Our evaluations also address mental health issues that may have arisen as a result of abuse/neglect and provide treatment recommendations to address each child’s particular issue.

During the course of an abuse/neglect court case other questions often arise including if siblings should be separated and if post-termination visitation is in the best interest of a child.  Our evaluations can address these issues and provide specific recommendations based upon the best interests of the child.

We also provide evaluations for children who are sexually acting out. Oftentimes there are concerns or questions about safety, placement, and/or treatment. Our evaluations can look at factors related to sexually reactive vs sexually offending behaviors and provide specific recommendations about  placement  and/or  treatment  that may be needed to address these issues and reduce sexualized behaviors that could place others at risk. ** It should be noted that this type of evaluation is unrelated to sexual offender risk assessment evaluations.

 

Competency to Testify

Child Competency

Child competency evaluations are often used when there are concerns about a child’s ability to testify due to either age, intelligence, or other mental health factors. Typically these evaluations are sought in criminal proceedings where a child has been the victim of a crime and may offer testimony against the defendant. While competency to testify and abuse/neglect issues can be addressed in the same evaluation, there are times where the focus is solely on whether or not a child possesses the requisite requirements to offer testimony.  Child competency evaluations focus on several factors that bear upon a child’s ability to testify including intelligence, memory, ability to recall, observe, and communicate, awareness of the difference between a truth and a lie, awareness of potential consequences of being untruthful and ability to take an oath.  These areas are assessed through numerous means including interview, intelligence testing, and self-report measurements.

In addition to addressing questions of competency an evaluation can also address questions about the need for a child’s testimony to be taken outside the physical presence of the defendant via closed circuit television.

Adult Competency

In some cases there may be questions about an adult’s ability to provide testimony due to issues of intellect or mental health. Our evaluations are able to assess factors related to intelligence and/or mental health and their impact upon competency.