The Role Of A Forensic Psychologist

Forensics psychologist is a term that many people are aware of these days, most in part due to the large of numbers of crime themed dramas on television. But being that people first heard this term on their favorite police show, chances are their ideas of what a forensics psychologist actually does are generally leaning in the wrong direction.

Forensics in itself is the analysis of a crime scene for any material that can help solve the case. Examples of this are dusting for fingerprints, collecting DNA samples, or examining the direction a bullet was fired from. Forensic psychology isn’t too different in that it is the analysis of an individual waiting to stand trial or the situation that lead to a particular crime happening. Here are some of the points that a forensic psychologist looks at.

Advisors – Forensic psychologists can offer guidance for a criminal case by providing documentation from past cases or studies that reflect similarities to the present case.

Competency – The competency analysis of a defendant actually consists of three areas:

  • Competence to proceed – The defendant’s overall mental status and state are evaluated by a psychologist to determine if the defendant is even fit to stand trial.
  • Competence to Plead Guilty – Much like a defendant’s competency to proceed with a trial, a competency to plead guilty evaluation determines if the defendant truly understands what they did to go to trial and if they fully understand what it means to plead guilty.
  • Competence to be Executed – The psychologist evaluates the defendant to determine the defendant’s understanding of why he or she is being executed and if there is an understanding about the consequences of the execution.

Criminal Profiles – Criminal profiles are when the psychologist begins to identify traits of a criminal based on actions that occurred during the crime, and objects that may have been left. This is used to not only try to create a description of the criminal, but it also is used to try to detect any patterns so it could be possible to determine future targets.

Expert Witness – A forensic psychologist can also be called in as an expert witness. An expert witness is considered an expert in a particular field and is brought in to provide background information that can offer insight to a claim being made during a trial.

Insanity – A forensic psychologist will evaluate a defendant to determine whether or not the defendant understands the difference between right and wrong. There have been multiple instances where the outcome of a trial was affected by a psychologist’s report after evaluating a defendant’s insanity.

With this article, I hope more people realize that being a forensic psychologist doesn’t entail high-speed car chases and intense shoot outs in a laboratory. But what forensic psychology does entail is a providing a little oil to keep the wheels of justice spinning.