In criminal cases, Athena Care conducts forensic evaluations and provide expert opinions in the areas of custody evaluations, parenting evaluations, competency to stand trial, diminished capacity, insanity pleas, malingering, sexual offenses, and juvenile competency.
In these evaluations the professional opinions of the psychologists are used to assist the judge in making an informed decision regarding the best interests of the child. This is the standard always used in these cases. Evaluations of the parent’s competency and skills are made as well as an in-depth assessment of the child’s particular concerns including mental illness of any of the parties involved. We can be retained in these circumstances by the court or any of the involved parties.
Competency to Stand Trial
There are several acceptable approaches for performance of competency to stand trial evaluations including standardized methods such as Georgia Competency Test. Competency to stand trial evaluations can be ordered by the defense, the prosecution, or the courts. The party ordering evaluation should expect the evaluator to address the pertinent issues in accordance with: Dusky v. U.S., 362 U.S. 402, 80 S.Ct.788 (1960); Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 95 S.Ct. 896 (1975); and Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 113 S.Ct. 2680 (1993), and the statutory requirements in a given jurisdiction. Competencies to waive constitutional rights, i.e. competency to plead guilty or competency to waive the right to counsel are not offered as separate evaluations, but are addressed in the context of competency to stand trial report. The reports address the following areas in sufficient detail:
- Pertinent background information of the defendant.
- Pertinent psychiatric, medical and substance abuse history.
- Thorough Mental Status Exam and current level of functioning.
- Evaluation of the defendant’s ability to understand the proceedings against him.
- Statements of the defendant that demonstrate the extent of his understanding of relevant issues are provided in quotations. This part of the report would provide answers as to whether the defendant has the ability to: understand his present charges, understand his overall legal situation, understand the roles of courtroom personnel, distinguish between various pleas, and understand the range of possible verdicts.
- Assessment of the defendant’s ability to assist in his defense. This part of the evaluation should reflect on defendant’s ability to: recount his behavior and whereabouts at the time of the alleged offense, effectively interact with his attorney, and behave in acceptable manner in the court room.
- Whether or not, and to what extent the defendant’s mental disorder (if any) has affected his competency to stand trial. The absence of mental disorder usually precludes further evaluation.
In cases when the defendant is assessed by the evaluator as incompetent to stand trial the issues of malingering (feigning the signs and symptoms of mental disorder) and potential for restoration to competency will be discussed.
Mental State at the Time of the Offense (Insanity and Diminished Capacity)
Insanity defense or other mental state at the time of the alleged offense evaluations can be requested by the defense, the prosecution or the courts. These evaluations will not be offered for defendants who have presently been found to be incompetent to stand trial. The party making the referral is responsible for the provision of the necessary collateral information for the preparation of the report. Evaluation reports are to address the following areas:
- List of reference materials and of interviews utilized in the preparation of the report
- Case law or statutory requirements to meet the criteria for an insanity defense in a given jurisdiction
- Detailed background information of the defendant
- Past psychiatric history
- Medical history
- Substance abuse history
- Description of the alleged offense in question by the defendant and by the collateral sources.
- Review of collateral information reconstructing the mental state of the defendant at the time of the alleged offense, and the time proximate to the alleged offense. These usually include police reports, witness accounts, notes and discharge summaries from recent hospitalizations, accounts of communications of the defendant with others, etc.
- Diagnostic impressions (the absence of mental disorder usually precludes further evaluation)
- Detailed account as to how the given diagnosis was reached
- Description of the correlation between the defendants behavior at the time of the alleged offense with the symptoms of his/her mental illness (in the case of multiple legal charges, each offense would be addressed separately)
- Correlation of the defendant’s mental state and behavior with statutory requirements for the insanity defense in a given jurisdiction
- Issue of malingering (the reasons as to why the evaluator does or does not believe that the defendant is not fabricating the symptoms of mental illness as it relates to the offense in question)
Persons accused of sexual offenses are often court ordered for psychological evaluations. These evaluations must be conducted by a psychologist who is certified by the Tennessee Sexual Offender Treatment Board. We will conduct these evaluations on persons of all ages in accordance with state standards.
† Only referrals by attorneys or courts are accepted. The evaluator retains the right to refuse to become involved in a case for undisclosed reasons. Please do not send any confidential information until professional relationship has been established. This summary merely provides basic framework, and does not intend to cover all the specifics and nuances of the evaluation process and report preparation. Athena Care makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. Nothing on this site constitutes legal or medical advice. If you require legal advice or service, please contact an attorney.