Psychological Injury and Law

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 52–63 | Cite as

Conducting Disability Evaluations with a Forensic Perspective: the Application of Criminal Responsibility Evaluation Guidelines

  • Karen M. DavisEmail author
  • Michael B. Lister


Although the goals of disability and criminal responsibility evaluations differ greatly, both evaluations require determining whether an individual evidences genuine impairment that aligns with a legal definition and the extent to which mental health symptoms impact the individual’s functioning. Recommendations for how to conduct criminal responsibility evaluations often include a multi-step process for completing an objective evaluation that thoroughly addresses the clinical and legal issues at hand. Forensic recommendations also emphasize the need to evaluate the extent to which reported symptoms are genuine and how to determine whether the clinical presentation aligns with the legal standard at issue. This paper will illustrate how recommendations for conducting criminal responsibility evaluations can be applied to disability evaluations done to determine whether someone should receive accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) to ensure a thorough assessment that addresses relevant clinical issues and legal standards.


Disability evaluations Criminal responsibility evaluations Forensic assessment 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

No original empirical data were collected for this article.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


  1. American Law Institute. (1985). Model penal code and annotations. Washington DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U. S. C. §§12101 et seq.Google Scholar
  3. American Psychological Association. (2013). Specialty guidelines for forensic psychology. American Psychologist, 68, 7–19. Scholar
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borum, R., & Grisso, T. (1996). Establishing standards for criminal forensic reports: an empirical analysis. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 24, 297–317.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Chafetz, M., & Underhill, J. (2013). Estimated costs of malingered disability. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 28, 633–639.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Dirks-Linhorst, P. A., & Kondrat, D. (2012). Tough on crime or beating the system: an evaluation of Missouri Department of Mental Health’s not guilty by reason of insanity murder acquittees. Homicide Studies, 16, 129–140. Scholar
  8. Dvorsky, M. R., Langberg, J. M., Molitor, S. J., & Bourchtein, E. (2016). Clinical utility and predictive validity of parent and college student symptom ratings in predicting an ADHD diagnosis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 72, 401–418. Scholar
  9. Ferguson, M., & Ogloff, J. R. P. (2011). Criminal responsibility evaluations: role of psychologists in assessment. Psychiatry, Psychology, and Law, 18, 79–94. Scholar
  10. Gold, L. H. (2013). Mental health disability: a model for assessment. In L. H. Gold & D. L. Vanderpool (Eds.), Clinical guide to mental disability evaluations (pp. 3–35). New York: Springer Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gottfried, E. D., Schenk, A. M., & Vitacco, M. J. (2016). Retrospectively assessing for feigning in criminal responsibility evaluations: recommendations for clinical practice. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 16, 118–128. Scholar
  12. Gowensmith, W. N., Sessarego, S. N., McKee, M. K., Horkott, S., MacLean, N., & McCallum, K. E. (2017). Diagnostic field reliability in forensic mental health evaluations. Psychological Assessment, 29, 692–700. Scholar
  13. Gutheil, T. G. (2002). Assessment of mental state at the time of the criminal offense. In R. I. Simon & D. W. Shuman (Eds.), Retrospective assessment of mental states in litigation (pp. 73–99). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Publishing Inc..Google Scholar
  14. Harrison, A. G., Lovett, B. J., & Gordon, M. (2013). Documenting disabilities in postsecondary settings: diagnosticians’ understanding of legal regulations and diagnostic standards. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 28, 303–322. Scholar
  15. Heilbrun, K. (2001). Principles of forensic mental health assessment. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.Google Scholar
  16. Heilbrun, K., NeMoyer, A., King, C., & Galloway, M. (2015). Using third-party information in forensic mental-health assessment: a critical review. Court Review, 51, 16–35.Google Scholar
  17. King, C. M. (2017). Forensic assessment II: conducting the evaluation. In G. Pirelli, R. A. Beattey, & P. A. Zapf (Eds.), The ethical practice of forensic psychology (pp. 189–228). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Langberg, J. M., Epstein, J. N., Simon, J. O., Loren, R. E. A., Arnold, L. E. Hechtman, L.,. . Wigal, T. (2010). Parent agreement on ratings of children’s attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and broadband externalizing behaviors. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 18, 41–50. Scholar
  19. Melton, G. B., Petrila, J., Poythress, N. G., Slobogin, C., Otto, R. K., Mossman, D., & Condie, L. O. (2018). Psychological evaluation for the courts: a handbook for mental health professionals and lawyers (4th ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  20. Michalopoulos, L. M., & Aparicio, E. (2012). Vicarious trauma in social workers: the role of trauma history, social support, and years of experience. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma, 21, 6464–6664. Scholar
  21. Mittenberg, W., Patton, C., Canyock, E. M., & Condit, D. C. (2002). Base rates of malingering and symptom exaggeration. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 24, 1094–1102.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Nelson, J. M., & Harwood, H. R. (2011). A meta-analysis of parent and teacher reports of depression among students with learning disabilities: evidence for the importance of multi-informant assessment. Psychology in the Schools, 48, 371–384. Scholar
  23. Packer, I. K. (2009). Evaluation of criminal responsibility. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Packer, I. K. (2013). Evaluation of criminal responsibility. In R. Roesch & P. A. Zapf (Eds.), Forensic assessment in criminal and civil law: a handbook for lawyers (pp. 32–46). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Physical or Mental Disease, Disorder, or Defect Excluding Penal Responsibility. HI Rev Stat § 704–400 (2013).Google Scholar
  26. Piechowski, L. D. (2013). Evaluation of workplace disability. In R. Roesch & P. A. Zapf (Eds.), Forensic assessment in criminal and civil law: a handbook for lawyers (pp. 191–204). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Reid, W. H. (2006). Sanity evaluations and criminal responsibility. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 2, 114–145.Google Scholar
  28. Resnick, P. J., West, S., & Payne, J. W. (2008). Malingering of posttraumatic disorders. In R. Rogers (Ed.), Clinical assessment of malingering and deception (5th ed., pp. 109–127). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  29. Roesch, R., Viljoen, J. L., & Hui, I. (2004). Assessing intent in criminal responsibility. In W. T. O’Donohue & E. R. Levensky (Eds.), Handbook of forensic psychology: resource for mental health and legal professionals (pp. 157–174). San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rogers, R. (1987). APA’s position on the insanity defense: empiricism versus emotionalism. American Psychologist, 42, 840–848.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Rogers, R., & Bender, S. D. (2018). Clinical assessment of malingering and deception (4th ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  32. Rogers, R., Seman, W., & Clark, C. C. (1986). Assessment of criminal responsibility: initial validation of the R-CRAS with the M’Naghten and GMBI standards. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 9, 67–75.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Rogers, R., & Sewell, K. W. (1999). The R-CRAS and sanity evaluations: a re-examination of construct validity. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 17, 181–194.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Rogers, R., Sewell, K. W., & Gillard, N. D. (2010). Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms (SIRS), 2nd Edition, professional manual. Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.Google Scholar
  35. Sadoff, R. L., & Dattilio, F. M. (2011). Criminal responsibility. In E. Y. Drogin, F. M. Dattiliio, R. L. Sadoff, & T. G. Gutheil (Eds.), Handbook of forensic assessment: psychological and psychiatric perspectives (pp. 121–144). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Scott, C. L., & McDermott, B. (2013). Malingering and mental health disability evaluations. In L. H. Gold & D. L. Vanderpool (Eds.), Clinical guide to mental disability evaluations (pp. 155–182). New York: Springer Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shannon, P. J., Simmelink-McCleary, J., Im, H., Becher, E., & Crook-Lyon, R. E. (2014). Exploring the experiences of survivor students in a course on trauma treatment. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6, 5107–5115. Scholar
  38. Simon, R. I. (2002). Retrospective assessment of mental states in criminal and civil litigation. In R. I. Simon & D. W. Shuman (Eds.), Retrospective assessment of mental states in litigation (pp. 1–20). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing Inc..Google Scholar
  39. Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Disability benefits. Retrieved from:
  40. Sodeke-Gregson, E. A., Holttum, S., & Billings, J. (2013). Compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress in UK therapists who work with adult trauma clients. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 4, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. van Gorp, W. G., & McMullen, W. J. (1997). Potential sources of bias in forensic neuropsychological evaluations. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 11, 180–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Warren, J. I., Murrie, D. C., Chauhan, P., Dietz, P. E., & Morris, J. (2004). Opinion formation in evaluating sanity at the time of the offense: an examination of 5175 pre-trial evaluations. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 22, 171–186. Scholar
  43. Zosky, D. L. (2013). Wounded healers: graduate students with histories of trauma in a family violence course. Journal of Teaching and Social Work, 33, 239–250. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentState University of New York College at CortlandCortlandUSA
  2. 2.Oakdale Psychology AssociatesEndicottUSA

Personalised recommendations