Forensic Assessment

Forensic Assessment

Forensic Assessments, Court Ordered Evaluations and Consultation

Forensic psychology is the application of specialized psychological knowledge to provide information relevant to a legal question. Used to aid a legal fact finder such attorneys, judges and juries in making thorough, educated decisions. The evaluator will offer an objective, unbiased, experienced assessment to the attorney and/or the court. This assessment will assist the attorney in their approach for defense/prosecution and assist the court in their ultimate determination of guilt and sentencing. Forensic consultation is available for trial, assisting in their approach, questioning and fund of supportive research.

More than 90% of all court cases settle before going to trial. In many cases, psychological reports can serve as an integral factor in connection with plea bargaining or for the purposes of mitigation during the sentencing phases of a case. We specialize in evaluating psychological factors and identifying cognitive and psychiatric impairments that directly contributed to behaviors during the alleged offense. We provide comprehensive forensic evaluations to help attorneys develop legal arguments, analyze cases, and gain additional insight into their clients’ behavior and mental status.

Aggravating/Mitigating Factors Assessment

Detailed evaluation to determine the individual psychological personality or intellectual factors present for a defendant This information is commonly presented by attorneys during the sentencing phase of the case. In addition to a detailed clinical interview review of records and interview with collateral sources the administration of psychological measures of risk measures will be considered as relevant to the case treatment and or supervision recommendations will be provided.

A mitigating factors psychological evaluation can assist in plea negotiation and assists the defense attorney and the court in understanding factors that affected the defendant’s judgment, perception, or intent in committing the offense. These findings are offered to the court in an effort to reduce the severity of the sentence. The evaluation may also include a risk assessment and treatment recommendations of how treatment and what type of treatment may reduce the likelihood of recidivism. “Mitigating factors” refer to information about a defendant or the circumstances of a crime that might tend to lessen the sentence or the crime with which the person is charged. This may include developmental injuries or deprivations that predisposed the defendant to commit a crime or could reduce their culpability.

Malingering Assessment

Detailed clinical evaluation to assess the exaggeration feigning of symptoms of mental illness for secondary gain. This type of evaluation may be requested by attorneys who need clarifications of a defendant’s mental illness for court purposes. This detailed evaluation will include a clinical interview review of records interview with collateral sources when appropriate and the administration of psychological supervision recommendations will be provided.

Personality Assessment Including Psychopathy Evaluation

Comprehensive evaluation to identify personality traits of the person being assessed, including traits associated with psychopathy. Personality evaluations may be used as a part of legal case but are also sought by individuals not involved in the criminal justice system. The evaluation will include a clinical interview review of records and administration of relevant psychological measures. Treatment and supervision recommendations will be provided.

Psychodiagnostic Assessment

Clinical assessment to determine the presence of mental health factors and major mental illness. This evaluation may be requested by individuals uninvolved in legal proceedings or by attorneys who need clarification of a defendant’s mental illness for court purposes. This detailed evaluation will include a clinical interview with collateral sources when appropriate and the administration of psychological measures. Treatment supervision recommendations will be provided.

Including, but not limited to:

Mental Health Diversion

  • In 2018, in California, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 215, which created a pre-trial diversion program for defendants with a mental disorder that has been accused of committing specific crimes. If they complete treatment, the criminal charges will be dismissed and the record of the arrest will be sealed. Our in-depth assessment will help answer questions related to the mental health diversion criteria.
  • California’s Mental Health Diversion law/program allows criminal defendants to receive mental health treatment when they are accused of a crime. This law diverts defendants from the criminal justice system into mental health treatment versus facing charges and possible conviction on those charges. The main requisite for this program is that the defendant’s mental disorder played a significant role in the charged offense. In order to determine if this was the case, a qualified mental health professional evaluates the defendant and provides opinions on the various criteria set forth in P.C. 1001.36.
  • Mental health diversion under Penal Code 1001.36 lasts a maximum of two (2) years. It can consist of inpatient or outpatient treatment.
    • If the defendant successfully completes the treatment program, at the end of the diversion period the court will dismiss the charges. A defendant is considered to have successfully completed a program when he or she
      • Has substantially complied with the requirements of diversion
      • Has avoided significant new violations of law unrelated to the defendant’s mental health condition, and
      • Has a plan in place for long-term mental health care.
        • If diversion was not successfully completed, the court will reinstate the criminal proceedings against the defendant. In that case, the defendant is still able to introduce any available criminal defenses to the charges.

Forensic psychology is the intersection between the clinical practice of psychology and the law. Forensic psychology is a specialty area in the broad field of psychology which focuses on the application of psychological principles and practices to answer psycho-legal questions.  Forensic psychologists assist the court in examining specific mental health aspects within the legal context. The focus is to address the legal question at hand to help the courts make appropriate decisions using empirically based research, actuarial instruments and objective psychological tests. Unlike traditional clinical psychological evaluations, where the client is frequently the person that is being assessed, in forensic psychological evaluations, the client is often the retaining party, which can either be the court, attorney, or an agency. The forensic psychologist’s role is to maintain objectivity and better inform the legal system or process with expert knowledge of mental health and human behavior. Forensic psychologists have a combination of specialized training and experience beyond the doctoral degree and provide evaluations, expert testimony in courts, and consultations to attorneys and judges throughout the legal system. These psychologists may also assist with jury selection, a process called voir dire examination.
The purpose of our forensic psychology evaluations is to assess psychological and cognitive functioning of individuals involved in legal and other administrative proceedings. Forensic psychologists conduct a forensic psychological evaluation, which will include a thorough clinical interview, comprehensive review of records, case law, collateral data, and psychological tests. Forensic evaluations can be utilized by the court to address legal issues such as competency to stand trial, criminal responsibility, transfer to adult court, sanity, risk for violence and sexual dangerousness. The forensic evaluation must adhere to very strict guidelines to insure that the findings and recommendations meet certain legal standards. When requested by the attorneys or ordered by the court, forensic psychologists conduct these evaluations in civil or criminal court cases, as well as in correctional and law enforcement settings. Unlike counseling and clinical psychological evaluations, the evaluations that are requested for the courts do not carry the same confidentiality assurances for the client. We explain and discuss these issues at the start so that the client may make a fully informed decision about their participation in the process.  Depending on the findings, we may identify and diagnosis a mental health disorder and provide recommendation for treatment planning. We also try to address the particular concerns or issues that were provided to us by the requesting party (e.g., attorney, case worker, probation officer, etc.)  Other psychological evaluations that may also be considered forensic can include, but are not limited to, evaluations of personal injury, fitness for duty, disability, parental fitness and competency to testify.
Assessing risk for violence can help courts make appropriate decisions on issues such as sentencing, granting privileges, and community reintegration. If an individual is assessed to be a high risk for future violence, a judge has grounds to order a more restrictive setting compared to someone who is a lower risk for recidivism. By tailoring court decisions based on accurate psychological evaluations, the community is safer while the defendant’s rights are also protected.
A comprehensive forensic evaluation can help facilitate better-informed legal decision making, or assist you as the attorney by performing evaluations that (depending on their outcome) may be useful in representing your client. A forensic evaluation can help address forensic questions such as “Does my client or defendant qualify for mental health diversion in California?” or “What is my client’s risk to public safety if released and treated in the community?” or “Does my client experience symptoms of PTSD and how has that impacted him?” Secondly, if a person (defendant) has a history of emotional distress, mental health treatment, special education, or cognitive impairment, an evaluation can be used for looking at mitigating factors and showing how the said disability/impairment impacts the client’s (defendant’s) decision making or functional abilities and how it relates to the instant offense. Please call the office of RPK Forensic Psychological and Consultation Services Inc. for a free 20-minute case consultation to find out how one of our specialized evaluations can assist you and your client. If you are a client interested in this service, please have your attorney reach out to us first. Issues that may warrant a forensic evaluation when being involved in a legal matter:
  • History of Trauma (sexual/physical/emotional abuse and/or general neglect)
  • History of Learning Difficulties
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Memory Impairment
  • Intellectual Difficulties
  • Attention/Concentration Impairment
  • Mental Health History
  • Current Emotional Distress
We offer different types of evaluations. Each one is customized to meet your, or your client’s needs. Forensic evaluations vary in hours needed. You are welcome to call our office to discuss a total estimated cost for your specific evaluation. For private firm attorneys, we have a retainer agreement and fee schedule we can send for your review. Our office can send you the detailed breakdown of hours, psychological tests, and total fees for the court order.