Establishing standards for criminal forensic reports: an empirical analysis

Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1996;24(3):297-317.


Forensic psychologists and forensic psychiatrists (about 80% of whom were certified by a specialty board) were surveyed regarding their beliefs about the necessary and appropriate content for reports on competency to stand trial (CST) (N = 102) and criminal responsibility/not guilty by reason of insanity (CR) (N = 96). Report elements concerning the identification of the defendant and evaluation methods (e.g., names, relevant dates, charges, data sources, notification to defendant of the purpose of the evaluation, and limits on confidentiality) were generally seen as "essential." Clinical data such as psychiatric history, current mental status, and current use of psychotropic medication were also seen as essential, as were data elements specific to each forensic question (e.g., understanding charges/penalties, possible pleas, and roles of trial participants for CST, and collateral information and defendant's description of alleged offense for CR). While most respondents agreed that it was important to provide an opinion about and reasoning for any diagnosis and its relation to the psycholegal question, there was lack of consensus regarding the propriety of offering "ultimate opinions," particularly concerning CR. Although there was general cross-disciplinary agreement regarding the appropriate content for criminal forensic reports, there was some disagreement as to the degree of importance of certain elements. Implications for practice and the development of professional standards are discussed, including advantages and cautions about using these data to influence issues of standards and policy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Expert Testimony*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insanity Defense*
  • Male
  • Medical Records / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Medical Records / standards*
  • Mental Competency / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Middle Aged
  • United States