What is Forensic Psychiatry?

justice statue

Psychiatry and the law are interrelated

The forensic psychiatrist evaluates issues at the interface of psychiatry and the law. Here are some typical scenarios:

  • A criminal defendant wants to make a plea for insanity;
  • A couple are involved in a child custody dispute and a judge wants the family evaluated;
  • A prosecutor or defense attorney needs a psychiatric evaluation to see if an alleged perpetrator is competent to stand trial;
  • A child is alleged to have been sexually abused;
  • An adult sues a church, claiming he was sexually abused as a child by a member of the clergy;
  • A woman sues an employer, claiming psychological distress from being sexually harassed at work;
  • A psychiatric patient, under care, commits suicide and the family sues the doctor for malpractice;
  • A convicted murderer facing the death penalty is evaluated for possible psychiatric mitigation;
  • The parents of a child with special needs do not believe the school is providing adequate services for their son or daughter;
  • The FBI, police or other law enforcement agencies need help in profiling a wanted man or woman suspected of criminal activity;
  • A family whose child was placed in foster care now wants the child returned.
  • A baby has birth complications, such as brachial plexus palsy, breathing problems after a Cesarean-Section, etc., and later is evaluated for possible psychiatric problems related to the birth;
  • Deportation of a parent can cause psychiatric harm to her child;
  • A child suffers posttraumatic stress disorder after witnessing the death of a parent.