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Forensic psychiatry

Forensic psychiatry is the legal application of psychiatry. Forensic psychiatrists work with courts in evaluating an individual's competency to stand trial, defenses based on mental diseases or defects (e.g., the "insanity" defense), and sentencing recommendations. They are also involved in the care of prisoners, both those in jails and those in prisons, and in the care of the mentally ill and dangerous (such as those who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity). Forensic psychiatrists are often called to be expert witnesses in both criminal and civil proceedings.

There are two major areas of criminal evaluations in forensic psychiatry. These are Competency to Stand trial (CST) and Mental State at the Time of the Offense (MSO).

Competency to Stand trial (CST) is the determination that a defendant has the mental capacity to understand the charges and assist his attorney. This is seated in the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, which ensures the right to be present at your trial, to face your accusers, and to have help from an attorney.

Mental State Opinion gives the Court an opinion, and only an opinion, as to whether a defendant was able at the time of the index crime, to understand what he was doing. This is worded differently in many states, and has been rejected altogether in some, but in every setting, the intent to do a criminal act and the understanding that it was a criminal act bear on the final disposition of the case.

Much of forensic psychiatry is guided by significant Court ruling or laws that bear on this area.

External links

  • Forensic psychiatry website by J.F. Hooper

Last updated: 02-16-2005 08:56:25
Last updated: 03-18-2005 11:16:12