March 28, 2024
“Performing Legally Sound Forensic Evaluations: A Discussion of California Rules and Caselaw”
Understanding jurisdictional legal and professional standards, laws, rules, and precedent is an ethical imperative in forensic evaluations. Knowledge in these areas facilitates effective report writing and narrows the report and assessment focus to legally relevant factors, one of the primary forensic report writing failures (Grisso, 2010; APA, 2013). It also permits the evaluator to provide clear and legally-relevant testimony. However, most forensic trainings only provide an overview of general/common standards for assessing various psycho-legal questions and do not address jurisdictional-specific legal rules and precedent. This presentation will review California-specific evidentiary and legal standards as well as caselaw relevant to competency and sanity evaluations. Criminal responsibility, undoubtedly the most complex psycholegal question, will be discussed in depth, including a breakdown of how California caselaw defines “wrongfulness.” Limitations on the use of information from competency evaluations will also be discussed. The presenter will facilitate a discussion of “ultimate issue” testimony and detail how it is defined in California laws and rules. Participants will then be engaged in reviewing real de-identified reports, discuss the pitfalls and deficiencies of each report, and asked to apply the appropriate legal and evidentiary standards. Finally, the training will provide an overview of how to conduct research and read/interpret legal briefs to facilitate lifelong learning. This training will benefit both courtroom personnel (attorneys, Judges) and forensic mental health evaluators.