Forensic psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry that partners with the criminal justice and legal systems. Forensic psychiatrists assist in civil litigation or criminal prosecution by conducting assessments of individuals who are involved in a legal case. People evaluated by forensic psychiatrists, however, are not necessarily offenders; they may undergo psychiatric examination to determine their parental fitness for child custody or to confirm a disability.
Duties a forensic psychiatrist may perform include, among others:
Forensic psychiatrists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), an evolving set of guidelines for diagnosing mental health conditions. For criminal cases, a forensic psychiatrist might present a detailed report of a perpetrator's mental competency or state of mind during a criminal act and might also offer sentencing proposals and estimates of future risk. Certain severe conditions could acquit or preclude an individual from judicial sentencing. When a verdict is reached, a forensic psychologist may recommend a suitable treatment center such as a mental health facility or special penitentiary wing.
A forensic psychiatrist can also contribute reports and testimony to civil cases. Their opinions may sway a personal injury or other civil claim by providing evidence of significant psychiatric damages that might have occurred. Family matters can similarly be influenced by a forensic psychiatrist's findings, with the goal of ensuring that a child is placed with a safe and capable guardian.
Forensic psychiatrists may work with forensic psychologists, law enforcement officers, judicial officials, case workers, and attorneys.