Frequently Asked Questions

When do I retain a forensic psychologist? What is involved and how long does an exam take? Common attorney questions and answers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is forensic psychology?
Forensic psychology is the application of the science and profession of psychology to questions and issues relating to law and the legal system.

The word “forensic” comes from the Latin word “forensis,” meaning “of the forum,” where the law courts of ancient Rome were held.

Today, a forensic psychologist may be sought when there is an adversarial criminal or civil process where scientists with specialized knowledge play a role and offer their expert opinion on psychological matters.

Forensic psychologists should have a comprehensive understanding of the legal system. Understanding statutory and case law and utilizing research-based evaluation tools that meet legal standards is the foundational bedrock of forensic assessments.

Forensic psychologists typically conduct forensic psychological assessments and write forensic reports that answer psycho-legal questions. For example,

  • “Was the defendant insane at the time he committed the crime?”
  • “Is the defendant competent to stand trial?”
  • “Does this defendant show sexual deviance and is he a risk to reoffend?”

Forensic psychologists also provided expert testimony in court after evaluating a client or defendant. Providing expert testimony as a “teaching expert,” is yet another role a forensic psychologist can play in the courtroom. As a “teaching expert,” they educate the trier of fact (i.e., judge or jury) about a specialized area of knowledge without having evaluated the defendant. For example, education regarding

  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and other mitigating factors
  • Adolescent brain development & it’s impact on Sexual Deviance, paraphilic disorders (e.g., pedophilic disorder)

 

How long does it take to complete a case?
Typically, from the time you retain our services and provide us with discovery and other records, our turnaround time is between four and six weeks. If your case needs to be expedited, we can discuss arrangements to complete the evaluation and report in a shorter time frame.
How do I know if my client would benefit from a forensic evaluation?

Clients are referred for a forensic evaluation when their attorney believes it may be beneficial to their legal case or when the judge orders someone to participate in such an evaluation. 

A forensic assessment is conducted either at the request of an attorney or by court order. The purpose of a forensic assessment is to determine the facts under question in a legal matter such as a lawsuit or a criminal case. 

Some common legal questions that forensic psychologists answer include: 

  • Insanity (mental status of defendant at the time of the commission of the crime) 
  • Competency (mental condition of the defendant at the time of the trial)
  • Sentencing recommendations 
  • Mental health diversion
  • Franklin/youthful offender evaluations
  • Violence risk assessment 
  • Sex offender risk assessment 
  • Juvenile delinquency 
  • Conservatorship
  • Decisional capacity
  • Testamentary capacity
  • Undue influence

A forensic evaluation can help address forensic questions such as:

“My client committed a crime and was mentally ill at the time, but does not qualify for an insanity defense. What other defense options do we have?”

  • Mental Health Diversion – Penal Code 1001.36
  • Psychological Mitigation 
  • Diminished Actuality 

“My client was arrested for a sex offense. The evidence shows that he did not show sexual intent during the alleged offense. How do we show the court that he does not have sexual deviance or have a paraphilic disorder?”

  • Psychosexual Evaluation
  • Stoll Evaluation
How much does an evaluation or consultation cost?

For private attorneys and public agencies such as public defenders and district attorney offices, we have a retainer agreement and fee schedule.

Upon contacting our office, we can send the retainer agreement and fee schedule for your review.

Depending on the type of evaluation and the number of records to be reviewed, we will provide you with an estimate on the number of hours we believe your case will take to complete.

When and where are evaluations conducted?
Evaluations are conducted both in and out of custody. For in custody clients, we travel to the jail, prison, or hospital to evaluate your client. For out of custody clients, we meet with them at our office in Orange County or San Diego or we also offer secure remote video evaluations.
How do I get started on services?
If you are ready to retain our services on your legal matter, please call or text Dr. Vorwerk directly at (949) 892-9800.

Dr. Vorwerk will speak to you about your case and walk you through the steps of retaining our services.

If you have questions about whether or not we can assist in your case, you can schedule a free 20-minute telephone case consultation. You may contact us using the form below or by calling or texting Dr. Vorwerk directly at (949) 892-9800.

Other questions?
If we can answer any other questions, please contact us at (949) 892-9800 – we can receive calls and texts at this number. Or feel free to email us at mv@vorwerkforensic.com.

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Vorwerk Forensic Psychology, Inc.

27525 Puerta Real, Ste. 300-223
Mission Viejo, CA
92691

 

(949) 892-9800
mv@vorwerkforensic.com