If you have a desire to work within the criminal justice world, but also know that you have a place in a career path related to psychology, then a profession in forensic psychology is sure to be a perfect fit for you! A forensic psychologist is a career path that will allow you to work in the worlds of psychology and criminal justice in a means of understanding how criminal law in relevant legal jurisdictions will allow you to interact with other pertinent individuals. For instance, in your job capacity you will be responsible for working with legal professionals, judges, and attorneys. It will be important that you can presently yourself appropriately to testify in court, that you can recreate psychological findings into an appropriate legal language of the court, and that you can provide legal personnel with information that they can understand. It may also be necessary that you understand the rules, the philosophy, and the standards of our judicial system so that you will be capable of being an effective and credible witness. For example, you will need to be well-versed with regards to hearsay evidence and the exclusionary rule so that you do not lose credibility within the courtroom. It is quite common for forensic psychologists to be formally trained in any branch of psychology, such as social, clinical, or organizational.
Keep in mind, although your expertise and your experience will be what qualifies you as an expert forensic psychologist, it will be up to you to familiarize yourself with appropriate courtroom procedures to make it possible for you to maintain your reputation. Of course, in your capacity as a forensic psychologist you will typically be asked to testify in cases that concern issues of brain damage or brain capacity. You may also be required to gauge whether a person is legally competent to stand trial for his or her actions.
R.J. Gregory, who wrote Psychological Testing: History, Principles, and Application, identifies eight primary roles of a forensic psychologist within the legal court system. A forensic psychologist must be able to: evaluate possible malingering, assessment the mental state of an individual who is pursuing an insanity plea, determine an individual’s competency to stand trial, make a prediction of violence and assessment of risk, evaluate the circumstances regarding a child custody case that is related to a divorce proceeding, interpret a person’s polygraph data, assess personal injury, and specialize in forensic personality assessment. No matter which of these capacities you are working to fulfill, it will be critical that you can translate what you know about psychology into a legal framework that will be appropriately utilized to best serve an individual’s legal interests. While it may vary some depending upon where you are employed and what your specific responsibilities are, you should also expect to be asked to provide recommendations for sentencing, treatment suggestions, information regarding mitigating factors, evaluation of witness credibility, and to assess an individual’s future risk. You may also be asked to train police officers or other law enforcement personnel so that they are familiar with profiling practices and other effective ways to work with police departments. Keep in mind, with this occupational title you may be eligible to seek employment with the States Attorney office, private attorneys, Public Defenders, or firms who specialize in jury selection. It is important to understand that as a forensic psychologist your duties and responsibilities will often vary from what a typical psychologist performs. For instance, attorneys will likely contact you on behalf of their client, as opposed to a patient coming to you on a voluntary basis.