How to Write a Forensic Report

By Michael Staib
How to Write a Forensic Report
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Forensics is the scientific aspect of criminal investigations. A forensic report simply and succinctly summarizes the substantive evidence in a criminal case. Forensic report writing may prove difficult and daunting because it usually demands analysis of technical data, presented in a readable, easy-to-follow format. Nevertheless, a forensic report essentially follows the same basic standards and protocols required of any report.

Identify Data

Identify the available data and the events that transpired. Answer the 5 W's; Who, What, When, Where and Why?

Begin writing the report, identifying the parties involved, including names, dates of birth and genders; specific dates; locations, alleged offenses and the causative chain of events.

Identify legal representatives, including all defense attorneys and prosecutors, accompanied by addresses and phone numbers for contact references.

Accurately describe all details of what allegedly transpired.

Structure of Evaluation

Provide psychological opinion within the context of clinical confidentiality. Derive a clinical impression of a defendant, inferring the condition of his mental or cognitive state, and document your conclusion.

Describe defendant's psychological disposition based on your professional observation. Include any personal interviews with defendant and documents reviewed.

Contact the attorneys to help assess the defendant's perceptions before, during and after the alleged incident.

Defendant Background

Provide any pertinent information about the defendant's psychiatric history.

Include details about any psychiatric history, substance abuse history or involvement with the criminal justice system.

If possible, document the defendant's current living circumstances, any relationships she may have had with the alleged victim, and anything that may have precipitated the alleged incident.

Mental Status

Specifically state your positive and/or negative findings regarding the defendant's mental status.

Include direct quotes and objective assessments, such as manifestations of suicidal or homicidal tendencies or anything suggesting psychosis.

If necessary information is unavailable, document why it is not.

Mental Competence

Provide concrete examples to demonstrate the defendant's mental abilities and deficiencies. Extrapolate from previously annotated observations to assess the defendant's mental competence.

Exclude from the record any self-incriminating statements made by the defendant regarding the alleged offense, because assertions are inadmissible in determining legal competence.

Provide data elucidating the presence or absence of mental illness during the alleged incident to assess criminal responsibility. Include any other possible extenuating and/or incriminating factors necessary for the court to determine criminal culpability.

Conclusion & Disposition

State your conclusions and recommendations. Your previous data must support your conclusions.

In your recommendation, include all opinions concerning mental competency. Harness the evidence to substantiate your professional opinion.

After the court reaches a disposition in the defendant's case, document the outcome of the case whenever possible. If information that would lead to a different recommendation becomes available after the completion of your report, submit an addendum explaining the reason for the change.