19 Evaluation of Criminal Responsibility

Forensic Psychology


  1. Alan M. Goldstein PhD, ABPP1,
  2. Stephen J. Morse JD, PhD, ABPP2,
  3. Ira K. Packer PhD, ABPP3

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop211019

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Goldstein, A. M., Morse, S. J. and Packer, I. K. 2012. Evaluation of Criminal Responsibility. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 11:III:19.

Author Information

  1. 1

    City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, New York, USA

  2. 2

    University of Pennsylvania, College of Law, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

  3. 3

    University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


A guiding principle of our system of criminal law is that the punishment should fit the crime and that only responsible agents should be blamed and punished. Criminal law therefore provides a number of mitigating and excusing doctrines to insure that the degree of blame and punishment do reflect the offender's responsibility. This chapter considers a number of defenses, including insanity, provocation/passion, extreme emotional disturbance, diminished capacity, voluntary and involuntary intoxication, imperfect self-defense, and duress. Some of these defenses, if successfully argued, negate any criminal responsibility, while others result in a finding that the defendant is guilty of a lesser crime than the one originally charged and, therefore, is less blameworthy and deserving of a lesser punishment. The history and legal underpinnings of these defenses are discussed and common ethical issues and conflicts in conducting these assessments are considered. We present a generic model for evaluating a defendant's mental state at the time of the alleged offense.


  • culpability;
  • insanity;
  • mens rea;
  • extreme emotional disturbance;
  • diminished capacity