How to write a forensic report

Written by michael staib
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Forensics is the scientific aspect of criminal investigations. A forensic report simply and succinctly summarises 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.

Skill level:
Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

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

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

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

  4. 4

    Accurately describe all details of what allegedly transpired.

  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

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

  1. 1

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

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    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.

  1. 1

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

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

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

  1. 1

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

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    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.

  1. 1

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

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    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.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep it simple. Stay terse and to the point in your descriptions.
  • Present your evaluation in a readable, unambiguous prose style with easily accessible references.
  • Keep copies of any addenda with your original report.

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