Competence to Confess
The legal standard used to assess an individual’s competence to confess states that a defendant must knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily confess. If any of these three criteria are not met, an individual is unable to waive his or her Miranda Rights, rendering the confession inadmissible. Evaluating an individual’s competence to confess entails reviewing relevant records, clinical interview, psychological testing, and collateral review.
Adult/Juvenile Criminal Psychologist in Denver, CO
Competence to Plead Guilty
Competence to plead guilty is the ability to understand the nature of the offense, the consequences associated with the charge, and the rights waived by the plea of guilty. In this kind of evaluation, we review the facts of the case, conduct clinical interviews with the defendant, administer psychological testing, and review collateral information.
Competence to be Sentenced or Executed
An individual must have the capacity to understand the element of the crime and the potential penalty associated with the crime. Mental health is not a stable facet; it can fluctuate from time to time due to a variety of reasons. Thus, a defendant’s capacity could also vary with regard to his or her progression through the criminal justice system. This type of evaluation assesses a defendant’s mental and cognitive levels of functioning prior to being sentenced or executed, and includes collateral review and clinical interview.
Competence to Stand Trial
Evaluations to determine competence to stand trial involve an assessment of a defendant’s ability to understand and rationally participate in court proceedings. A defendant has the right to a competency evaluation if their mental illness or cognitive deficit may interfere with their right to a fair trial. These evaluations are the single most common issue in the criminal mental health field. We assess a defendant’s capacity to understand the charges, comprehend the range and nature of potential penalties, understand the adversary nature of the legal process and the roles of the different court personnel, provide appropriate disclosure of pertinent information to their attorney, and their ability to manifest appropriate courtroom behavior. Procedures may include conducting forensic interviews, administering psychological testing, reviewing available collateral information, and summarizing pertinent conclusions in a comprehensive report. Expert witness testimony is provided, if necessary.
Competence to Testify in Court
The issue of testimonial competence may arise in connection with any person asked to testify. This evaluation includes observations of the individual’s capacity to accurately interpret events, evaluation of their memory and suggestibility, assessment of their ability to communicate, and an assessment of their moral development. When asked to evaluate an individual’s competency to testify in court, we conduct clinical interviews, administer psychological testing, review collateral information, and summarize our findings in a comprehensive report.
When a referral is received to conduct a competency evaluation from the court, an attorney, or a private party, information is obtained from the referral source that defines the specific capacity to be evaluated. The term competence, or competency in most cases, is used as a general term for a forensic evaluation. The terms capacity, incapacity and incapacitated, particularly in probate cases, are a part of the definition of the type of competence to be evaluated. For example, Testamentary capacity, and Decisional capacity are legal terms used to define a specific competence. However, the terms competency, competent, incompetent and incompetency are terms used in some legal definitions, particularly in criminal cases, such as Competent to proceed, or Mental Incompetency to proceed. By identifying the specific capacity or competency that is in question, we can hit the “bull’s eye” rather than hitting the target by doing a more general competency evaluation.
Comprehensive Psychological Evaluations
Comprehensive psychological evaluations are usually instigated because of perplexing questions that have been raised about an individual’s psychological functioning in legal or non-legal cases. Comprehensive psychological evaluations may require the use of forensic and clinical interviews, collateral interviews, administration of specialized psychological instruments, and reviewing medical/legal and other relevant records. The psychological evaluation report will include diagnostic formulations, conclusions, and recommendations. It is incumbent upon the evaluator to obtain accurate information about the questions specified in the referral.
Deception, Feigning and Malingering
Forensic evaluations must include the consideration and assessment of possible deception, feigning and malingering. The most commonly used term is simply malingering. Malingering is fabrication or gross exaggeration of a mental disorder in order to gain a perceived benefit from the court. An evaluation for malingering may involve clinical interviewing, review of case materials and collateral information, and the use of specialized assessment instruments designed to detect malingering. We implement these procedures to differentiate between the intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated psychological or cognitive symptoms and the presence of legitimate mental illness or cognitive impairments.
Diminished capacity refers to a defendant’s impaired ability to form criminal intent at the time of an offense. If a defendant was unable to form intent for a crime, he or she should not be held fully responsible for the offense. Some examples of diminished capacity include mental illness, cognitive impairment, involuntary intoxication, and battered women’s syndrome. A forensic evaluator can evaluate a defendant and provide valuable feedback to attorneys and to the court regarding a client’s diminished capacity. When evaluating for diminished capacity, we review the facts of the case, conduct clinical/forensic interviews with the defendant, review collateral information, administer psychological testing, and conduct malingering assessments.
Insanity Defense Evaluations
The insanity defense standard requires a defendant’s mental disease or defect to have caused the offense itself, or to have caused a dysfunction that impaired the individual’s appreciation or control of their acts constituting the offense. These evaluations involve evaluating the defendant’s actions at the time of the offense, entertaining alternate hypotheses to explain their actions, and developing conclusions regarding their functioning at the time of the offense. The forensic psychologist follows a set of specific procedures including reviewing relevant collaterals and case material, conducting clinical interviews, and administering psychological testing prior to formulating conclusions.
A sentence mitigation evaluation assesses potential mitigating factors for the defendant in a criminal case. These evaluations entail the presentation of relevant psycholegal research that applies to mitigating factors that often influence criminal court proceedings. This may include relevant research in the areas of eyewitness testimony, inappropriate interview techniques, false allegations/false memory, crimes of passion, childhood trauma, or brain development. We summarize these facets into a comprehensive report and provide expert testimony.
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