You ONLY have one chance to present your evidence…

A forensic psychological evaluation can have dire consequences on the outcome of your legal matter. Dr. Cohen understands this and provides timely, objective, comprehensive evaluations based on an arsenal of methods intended to exceed legal mandates and professional standards. His reports are concise, clear and fashioned to withstand legal scrutiny. Judges, juries and attorneys (even opposing counsel in some instances) have praised his ability to convey abstract psychological constructs in concrete terms fit for lay consumption through his uniquely detail oriented style and transparent logic.

Dr. Cohen’s services reflect his extensive experience in conducting 100’s of forensic evaluations. He is highly skilled in integrating multimodal assessment methods (e.g., psychological testing, record review, clinical interviews, collateral data) and applying findings to various psycholegal questions. Please be advised that Dr. Cohen’s practice is grounded in ethics and integrity, and thus he will only accept cases where he feels his services can be of benefit. The selective nature of his practice ensures that every case is provided with the attention it deserves. Quality always trumps quantity. Furthermore, just as a good attorney will discuss options with their client, a good forensic psychologist will do the same with an attorney.

Criminal Law:

From allegation to sentencing, questions prompting a forensic evaluation can arise at any point in a criminal proceeding.

Mitigation of Criminal Charges
Human factors relevant to conduct leading to criminal charges are vast. Behavior, unlike a reflex, is the manifestation of complex interactions between emotions, thoughts, dynamic events, personal history, etc. In some instances, providing the District Attorney, judge or jury with an illustrative understanding of how these variables converge may provide for a different vantage point and clearer understanding of the alleged act. With a wide arsenal and in-depth knowledge of instruments and evaluation methods, Dr. Cohen can quantify and convey key variables, when present, to judicial decision makers.
Sentencing Mitigation
Sentencing guidelines, based on the offense level and the defendant’s criminal history, were enacted to allow for a degree of certainty, consistency and fairness in the application of criminal sanctions while permitting judicial flexibility and the preservation of the purposes of sentencing (i.e., just punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation). A sentencing court is provided latitude within the guideline’s range and the option to depart from specified guidelines in atypical cases containing aggravating or mitigating factors. An objective and comprehensive psychological evaluation, such as that which is provided by Dr. Cohen, may provide essential information to assist the trier of fact in making such determinations.
Risk for Recidivism
Conduct is predicated on a host of variables ranging from those which are static in nature (e.g., an individual’s history) to dynamic events (e.g., factors subject to change). Similarly, dispositions (e.g., incarceration vs. treatment) may have an inverse impact on the short and long-term risk for recidivism. The extant literature is clear in documenting the lack of accuracy when determinations of such risk are based solely on experience or professional judgment. Informed opinions must also make use of specialized instruments designed specifically for these purposes. Dr. Cohen possesses the specialized knowledge and proficiency in selecting and using instruments to assist in making determinations relevant to levels of supervision, treatment targets and case classification.
Violence Risk Assessment
Violence occurs along a non-linear, transactional pathway impacted by a number of variables ranging from highly static to highly dynamic. State-of-the-science practices no longer seek to merely provide a “yes” or” no” determination of risk for future violence, but rather acknowledge that risk occurs along a continuum subject to mitigation. Dr. Cohen has considerable experience in using actuarial and structured professional judgment tools that guide decisions relevant to risk for future violence.
Sexually Violent Predator/Sex Offender Risk Assessment
Sex offender evaluations are conducted to assist in determinations of the appropriate levels of supervision, treatment needs and risk for re-offense. Dr. Cohen is well versed in measures considered among the gold-standards in sex offender evaluations and can provide essential information to probation, parole and the trier of fact.
Malingering
According to the DSM, malingering is “the intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms, motivated by external incentives such as…obtaining financial compensation [and] evading criminal prosecution…” An assessment of malingering requires a multimodal approach and an evaluator who understands that the presence of a bona fide mental illness does not negate the possibility an individual is also malingering. In no uncertain terms, the assessment and detection of malingering can be a daunting task and requires an expert, such as Dr. Cohen, who has an understanding of the evaluation methods needed in making such a determination.
Competence to Stand Trial

In Dusky, the Court established the minimal constitutional standard for competence to stand trial. The Court defined the test of competency to stand trial as “whether the accused has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.”

The right for a defendant to be physically present is meaningless if they are not mentally present. This constitutional right secures the accuracy, integrity and dignity of proceedings and due process requirements and is a requisite to the objectives of sanctions. Dr. Cohen is well versed in the use of specialized instruments designed for the purpose of assessing competence to stand trial.

Although less common, Dr. Cohen is also able to conduct evaluations to assist in determining a defendant’s competency to confess, waive Miranda Rights, waive right to counsel, etc.

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI)
Many criminal statutes contain a prohibited act (actus reus) and requisite mental state (mens rea); sanity deals with the latter.  Pursuant to the provisions of California Penal Code 25(b), the burden of proof falls to the defendant who must show by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his or her act and of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the commission of the offense.

Unlike competence to stand trial which address a defendant’s present abilities, questions of sanity deal with an individual’s mental state at the time of the offense. This is a complex defense often subject to public scrutiny. An objective evaluation conducted by an expert, such as Dr. Cohen, can assist the trier of fact in differentiating between the morally blameless and culpable defendant.

Other Judicial/Penal Code Commitments
Involuntary hospitalization is founded on tenents such as parens patriae (i.e., parent of the country) and police powers. Combined, these responsibilities allow the state to intervene on behalf of a citizen who cannot act in their own best interest and ensure public protection. In addition to those found Incompetent to Stand Trial and NGRI, other populations subject to such commitments include Mentally Disordered Offenders, Mentally Ill Offenders, and Sexually Violent Predators. Dr. Cohen has substantial experience with these populations.

Civil Law:

A psychological evaluation may be the only opportunity for an individual to be questioned without the presence of their attorney.

Emotional Damages/Personal Injury
The elements of a tort require the plaintiff to establish the presence of a duty, a breach of that duty, causation and injury. Assessments conducted within the context of tort litigation require an evaluation of the plaintiff’s pre and post-incident functioning, the nature, degree and likely cause of any distress or post-incident impairment, the need for restorative interventions and the prognosis. In addition to understanding legal and proximate causation, the evaluator must possess the knowledge of relevant doctrine (e.g., eggshell skull) and the ability to assess symptom exaggeration/malingering due to the potential for monetary reward. Dr. Cohen can provide a comprehensive and objective evaluation to address these matters.
Conservatorship
Probate (General or Limited) and Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorships can have a profound impact on the individual and their loved ones. Providing the court with substantive details to assist in the balancing of an individual’s autonomy vs. need for assistance requires a comprehensive evaluation.

Fitness For Duty:

Fitness for Duty Evaluations
FFDEs are indicated for incumbent employees whose communications, behavior or performance raise a specter of concern about safety, behavior or other problems that might significantly interfere with job performance. According to the Interpretive Guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), an employer is permitted to require an employee undergo a FFDE when there is a need to determine whether an employee is still able to perform the essential functions of his or her job (29 C.F.R. Pt. 1630, App.). The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA; Section 12940(f)(2) permits employers to require “any examinations or inquiries that it can show to be job-related and consistent with business necessity”. These sentiments are echoed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA; 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(4); 29 C.F.R. § 1630.14(c).
Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Psychological Evaluation
Pursuant to the provisions of California POST Administrative Manual, Section C – Personnel Selection and Standards, Peace Officer Selection Requirements Regulations, 1955 – Peace Officer Psychological Evaluation, a peace officer candidate must be evaluated to determine if they are free from any emotional or mental condition(s) that might adversely affect his/her ability to exercise the powers of a peace officer, as stated in California Government Code section 1031(f), and to otherwise ensure that he/she is capable of withstanding the psychological demands of the position (CA Commission Regulation 9055(a)).

Due to the requirement for a post-offer psychological suitability evaluation and potential consequences to the agency, public and applicant, a qualified examiner such as Dr. Cohen, who has already been retained to conduct such evaluations, is a necessity. Having worked closely with police departments and been trained by a federal agency as a hostage negotiator, Dr. Cohen has an understanding of the nuances involved in these complex endeavors.

Law Enforcement Fitness for Duty Evaluations
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a fitness for duty evaluation is a “formal, specialized examination of an incumbent employee that results from (1) objective evidence that the employee may be unable to safely or effectively perform a defined job and (2) a reasonable basis for believing that the cause may be attributable to a psychological condition or impairment. The central purpose of an FFDE is to determine whether the employee is able to safely and effectively perform his or her essential job functions.”

Failure to have an officer evaluated can have severe consequences for the public, officer and agency and result in civil liability. Such evaluations are also subject to a maze of case law and regulations (e.g., ADA, OSHA, EEOC). An experienced evaluator such as Dr. Cohen can assist the department in providing an objective and defensible decision regarding an incumbent peace officer’s degree of fitness.

Law Enforcement Fitness for Duty Second Opinion
An applicant denied employment or incumbent employee deemed unfit following a psychological evaluation may submit a second opinion from an independent evaluator for consideration before a final determination is made. Dr. Cohen has the knowledge, expertise and experience to assist in such matters. 
Licensed Professionals Fitness for Duty Evaluations
A variety of statutes relevant to the specific licensing board may allow or even require a fitness for duty evaluation. A knowledgeable professional, such as Dr. Cohen, is needed for such matters.

Workplace Violence:

Workplace Violence
California Labor Code 6400 requires that “every employer shall furnish employment and a place of employment that is safe and healthful for the employees therein.” According to OSHA, workplace violence is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.” Entities would be wise to have a plan in place.

Dr. Cohen is able to assist in developing and implementing a policy addressing workplace violence focused on prevention. Such issues require considerable planning and coordinating between departments within (e.g., human resources, legal, management) and outside (e.g., law enforcement) a company. Among other issues, ensuring employees feel safe, identifying and/or differentiating those who make vs. pose a threat and responding to a potential threat in a manner that will decrease the likelihood of its occurrence are among the daunting variables that require specialized training.

 

Child Custody Evaluations:

Child Custody Evaluations
At present, Dr. Cohen is not taking child custody cases. Please feel free to check back later.