As far back as the 14th century, the justice system understood that it is unfair to try a criminal defendant who does not understand the nature of the charges against him and/or who, due to a mental illness or defect, can’t participate in his own legal defense. Today, evaluating whether or not a person who has been accused of a crime is competent to stand trial is one of the most common forensic evaluations performed in the United States each year; an estimated 50,000 of these evaluations are performed each year. In this episode of Thread of Evidence, we’ll examine when attorneys refer their clients, what the evaluation process is like, and how this evaluation differs from an insanity plea or evaluation. 

Patricia A. Zapf, PhD is a forensic and clinical psychologist specializing in criminal forensic psychological evaluation, consultation, and expert testimony. Dr. Zapf is a past President of the American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS; Division 41 of the American Psychological Association) and was appointed as Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and Distinguished Member of the American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS) in 2006 in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the science and profession of psychology in forensic evaluation.

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