Criminal responsibility

As part of trial strategy, defense counsel may put forth an insanity defense asserting that a defendant’s state of mind at the time of the offense was seriously impaired and therefore reduces the defendant’s legal culpability. While State and Federal definitions of legal insanity differ, both require credible evidence that mental illness was present and that it adversely affected the defendant’s behavior, judgment, or reasoning. Obtaining credible and reliable evidence depends on a forensic psychologist’s ability to conduct a thorough retrospective assessment of the defendant’s state of mind during the weeks, days, and hours leading up to the criminal act, and explaining how it meets the legal definition of insanity.

With over 15 years of experience as a forensic psychologist, Dr. Daniel Swerdlow-Freed is well known for his ability to conduct comprehensive criminal responsibility evaluations. His assessments methodically examine all relevant information from police and prosecution records, witness statements, and jail and mental health records. He conducts in-depth interviews of the defendant and compares that account with all other information that is available. The results of the clinical interview, observation of the defendant, the defendant’s history, review of records, and psychological testing form the basis of findings that are explained in a clear, detailed summary. Dr. Swerdlow-Freed’s reports are widely regarded as credible and persuasive, and his testimony easily withstands rigorous cross-examination.


A criminal responsibility evaluation is warranted when there is evidence of:

  • Chronic or severe psychological problems
  • Mental retardation
  • Impaired ability to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of one’s conduct
  • Impaired ability to conform one’s conduct to the requirements of the law
  • Impaired ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life
  • Impaired judgment, behavior, or capacity to recognize reality
  • Substantial disorder of thought or mood
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