Evaluations Can Help in Court for Criminal Cases

Kimberly2 1Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

What Is a Criminal Case Evaluation?

 Psychological evaluations in the court system are conducted to assist in understanding the defendant’s mental state, behavior, and motivations. Prosecutions, defenses, and judges can request such assessments to determine competence to stand trial, criminal responsibility, and sentencing.Proper mental health evaluations of a defendant’s mental status can make a big difference in some criminal and civil cases. They can help the defense obtain a better outcome in the criminal justice system.Additionally, the mental health professional’s evaluation of the accused helps the judge determine whether a trial is necessary and influences the sentence the judge imposes. 

What You Need to Know About Case Evaluations


Their Purpose

Courts initiate evaluations to assess a person’s mental health and the risk of personal injury to others in criminal proceedings.The prosecution can order defendants to be evaluated if they believe their mental status could establish guilt. Defense counsel can also request the defendant submit to a competency evaluation to assist their criminal defense in Missouri.If the person is said to be suffering from a mental illness, evaluation can help them receive the necessary treatment they deserve and may be helpful when negotiating a plea bargain. 

Who Carries Out the Evaluations?

Mental health professionals such as psychologists or psychiatrists must conduct mental competency assessments. They include determining if the defendant has a current mental disorder that could affect their comprehension of the legal process in the courts, their communication ability, and their ability to participate in their own defense.For example, suppose a defendant is said to be suffering from dementia. In that case, the court can order a forensic neuropsychologist to assess the defendant’s mental health to know whether the claim is valid and if they are competent to stand trial.Depending on the case, three different competency evaluation processes can be performed on a person; these are:

  • Psychological evaluation
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Independent evaluation

Despite their numerous benefits, mental competency evaluations are expensive, time-consuming, and not always favorable to the party seeking them. Therefore, before proceeding, it is essential to consider their cost thoroughly. 


The first step in criminal evaluation is to request a court-ordered evaluation. If granted, you will receive a form that has to be filled out and submitted with details such as the name of the person the document is requested for, the reason for the evaluation, and the type of evaluation you are requesting.Other vital things that may be included in the assessment are medical records and details of previous court evaluations. 

What Are the Most Common Evaluation Methods?

 Once a court grants the evaluation, the entire process may be categorized into two methods: 

Clinical Interview

A mental health professional will conduct the clinical interview. The professional will ask the person about their life, criminal history, and mental status.The primary purpose of the discussion is to know whether the claim regarding the person’s mental health is valid and if they have an illness that prevents them from answering or understanding the charges. 

Sanity Hearing

A sanity hearing usually happens before the jury. Professional medical personnel will assess the person’s mental status and ask questions about their criminal history and mental health status. A sanity hearing aims to know if the accused can stand the court trial. 

How a Missouri Criminal Lawyer Can Help You

 A criminal case can sometimes depend upon a person’s mental health status, and therefore, it is essential to determine whether they can stand trial in court.It is crucial to select a criminal defense attorney well-versed in court processes so that they may carefully study the evidence and can help negotiate with prosecutors to reduce charges.If you or your loved one have been accused of a crime and you have doubts regarding their mental health or need a criminal defense lawyer who is well-versed with the proper steps to obtain the court’s permission for evaluation, contact the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center for a free consultation with a skilled criminal defense attorney today!

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