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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Forensic psychiatry evaluations

Forensic psychiatry is that aspect of psychiatry that interfaces with the legal system. Such interfaces include evaluations of defendants in the criminal justice system, assessment of plaintiffs claiming emotional damages and treatment of individuals who have faced legal charges.  The UC Davis Division of Psychiatry and the Law has a 12-month program that trains psychiatrists in this specialized field.

For more information about forensic psychiatry at UC Davis, call the Division of Psychiatry and the Law office at (916) 734-0870, or e-mail Charles L. Scott, M.D.

Forensic psychiatry and child/family evaluations

Child psychiatrists with additional training in forensic psychiatry have specific expertise in the evaluation of both children and adults involved with the legal system.

Common psychiatric evaluations include determination of child custody, evaluation of parenting capacity, and termination of parental rights.  Child custody evaluations focus on the "best interests of the child."  Interviews with the parents, children, and collateral contacts play an integral role in forming recommendations for the court.

In the juvenile justice arena, the child forensic psychiatrist assists the court in determining a juvenile's psychiatric diagnosis, amenability to treatment, eligibility for being tried in adult court, and risk for future dangerousness.  Evaluations of competency to waive Miranda rights, competency to participate in delinquency proceedings, and competency to stand trial as an adult are important assessments of many juveniles involved in the justice system.  In addition, child forensic psychiatrists can evaluate youths tried in adult court who raise an "insanity" defense.

Child forensic psychiatrists are also trained to conduct psychiatric evaluations of children involved in civil litigation.  These evaluations include assessment of psychiatric damages resulting from personal injury, exposure to toxins, and loss of a parent or close family member.

For those agencies requesting an Independent Medical Examination (IME) involving mental health issues, the child forensic psychiatrist provides a second opinion regarding diagnosis, treatment recommendations, and prognosis of children and adolescents. Charles L. Scott, M.D. is a child forensic psychiatrist and is Chief of the Division of Psychiatry and the Law.

Forensic psychiatry and civil evaluations

The interface of forensic psychiatry and civil law involves a wide spectrum of psychiatric evaluations.  These assessments generally include a combination of psychiatric interviews of an individual, a careful review of medical, psychiatric, academic, and occupational records, as well as interviews with relevant collateral contacts.

Examples of forensic psychiatric evaluations in the civil arena include the assessment of causality related to personal injury claims, competency to make a will (testamentary capacity), guardianship of person and estate, need for conservatorship, impaired professionals, sexual harassment, racial harassment, and claims under the American with Disabilities Act.

For those agencies requesting an Independent Medical Examination (IME) involving mental health issues, the forensic psychiatrist provides a second opinion that may include diagnosis, treatment recommendations, prognosis, and ability to return to work.

The forensic faculty also has specialized expertise in assessing psychiatric malpractice claims.  In these evaluations, a thorough review of the medical record helps determine whether the practitioner had a duty to the patient and, if so, if a violation of that duty directly resulted in damages.

Forensic psychiatry and criminal justice evaluations

Forensic psychiatry in the criminal arena encompasses a wide variety of psychiatric evaluations.  Examples include competency to waive Miranda rights, competency to confess, competency to stand trial, competency to be sentenced, competency to be executed, and the determination of mental health factors related to mitigation.

Forensic psychiatrists are also trained to evaluate defendant's criminal responsibility or "sanity at the time of the act."  In California, the legal guidelines establish that to be found "insane", the person must have a mental illness or defect which renders them unable to either know what they were doing or know that their actions were wrong.

Because the UC Davis forensic faculty has specialized expertise, training, and knowledge in both the assessment and treatment of criminal defendants, they are able to assist courts and attorneys on questions regarding standard of psychiatric care, risk management of suicide, and general systems issues within a jail or prison.