Forensic psychologists deal with the psychological problems and questions that arise during the course of legal proceedings. Such problems and questions are part of the broad legal question to be decided by the courts or other regulatory bodies. The legal issues can be divided into following categories:
- Civil: Those involved in civil litigation, for example, personal injury suits, workers compensation, child custody determination and civil commitment.
- Criminal: Those involved in criminal and crimes committed by young people, for example, sanity at the time of the crime, competency to stand trial, waiver of adolescent to adult courts.
Duties of a Forensic Psychologist
The prime duty of forensic psychologists is to assess the individuals’ mental states, who are involved, in many ways, with the legal system. Therefore, it is necessary to get training in forensic psychology and law, the most important expertise a forensic psychologist must possess are solid clinical skills, which are interviewing, clinical assessment, strong verbal communication skills (especially if an expert witness in court), report writing, and case presentation. These are all very important and set base of forensic psychology. Forensic psychologists perform tasks as counseling services to victims of crime, threat assessment for schools, child custody evaluations, screening, death notification process and selection of law enforcement applicants, the assessment of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) and the evaluation delivery of intervention and treatment programs for adolescent and adult offenders. They are often able to help in limiting the suspect list or at least provide an intention for a crime. The practice of forensic psychology involves assessments, investigations, research studies, consultation, the design and implementation of treatment plans. Assessment of insanity cases is one of crucial and interesting assessments for a forensic psychologist. By law a person cannot be held guilty for a crime if he/she did not own a “guilty mind”, also known as “mens rea” at the time the criminal act was committed. There are many situations in which the law accepts that a guilty mind is absent (e.g., self-defense). “Insanity” is not purely a psychological term but mostly a legal one. The standards for insanity differs country to country, depends upon the cultural and social norms and values. A common standard for insanity is being in normal senses i.e., “whether the person knew what he/she was doing was wrong”. The forensic psychologist makes great efforts to determine not how the person is functioning at the present moment, but also his/her mental state at the time of the crime. Therefore, mostly forensic psychologist work in retrospective and must rely on third-party information, and the statements made at the time of the crime.