Why Does Your Lawyer Want to Hire a Forensic Psychiatrist?

If you have been accused of a crime that your lawyer feels you committed due to a mental illness, duress, or another condition of the mind, your lawyer may recommend hiring a forensic psychiatrist to act as an expert witness during your trial. This recommendation may confuse you if you're not overly familiar with what a forensic psychiatrist does and how their services may help someone like you. Here is a closer look at why your lawyer may be looking into hiring such an expert.

What is a forensic psychiatrist?

A forensic psychiatrist is someone with a degree in psychiatry, which is a medical specialty focused on analyzing the mind and mental illness. This person focuses on the field of forensics, which can mean they work with any sort of people associated with prisons, crime, or wrongdoing. A forensic psychiatrist knows the law, but they also know minds and medicine, which puts them in a unique position when it comes to crimes related to different mental states.

What do forensic psychiatrists do for a case?

Forensic psychiatrists, when called to court, will analyze the mental state of a person being charged with a crime. They may ask questions, order medical tests, and observe the person's behavior to get an idea of the mental state they were in when they allegedly committed the crime. For example, they may find that the accused individual was having a schizophrenic episode when they attacked someone, or they may find that a person only fired a gun because they were terrified. 

The testimony from a forensic psychiatrist can completely change the ruling on a case. For instance, if the psychiatrist finds that you only committed for a crime due to mental illness, you may be found "not guilty for reason of mental insanity" and sent to mental health rehabilitation instead of prison. Your charges may also be completely dismissed, or you may be charged with a lower-level crime because the judge is moved by the psychiatrist's testimony.

Do you really need to hire the forensic psychiatrist?

Hiring a forensic psychiatrist to appear in court can be expensive, so you may wonder whether you really need to take this step. Generally, if your lawyer is recommending it, hiring this expert is the best way to avoid a serious sentence for the charges brought against you. Forensic psychiatrists are generally only recommended when necessary, so trust your attorney. There are even options for virtual forensic psychiatry expert services, so look into these if you think they could be a better fit for your situation.