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Criminal Responsibility, Assessment of

Mental health professionals are frequently asked to evaluate criminal defendants to assist the courts in determining whether those individuals may have been legally insane (i.e., not criminally responsible) at the time of their crimes. This entry discusses the legal concept of and criteria for insanity, as well as the challenges that forensic experts face in conducting these evaluations.

In contemporary Western society, prohibited behaviors are typically codified in the criminal law, and most citizens are held to be responsible to obey these laws. Individuals who violate the law may be prosecuted and, if convicted, punished for their behavior. Such individuals are said to be “criminally responsible,” a label that reflects the moral and legal judgment that the person had neither a justification nor an excuse for ...

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