Forensic Psychological Evaluations: Considerations for Criminal and Civil Attorneys

(538 Ratings)

Produced on: May 21, 2015

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 90 minutes
Difficulty Advanced

This course focuses on a primary area of forensic psychology practice: forensic mental health assessment (FMHA). FMHA  refers to the process mental health professionals engage in when conducting evaluations for the courts or for attorneys who have retained them. Forensic psychologists are not simply clinical psychologists practicing in the legal arena, and forensic evaluations are not just psychological evaluations for legal cases. Rather, forensic practitioners have specialized training and conduct evaluations in a manner distinct from traditional psychological assessments. 


This course is provided by Daniel Agatino, Ph.D., Esq., a New Jersey-based criminal defense and entertainment/copyright law attorney, and Gianni Pirelli, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist who maintains a private forensic psychology practice in New Jersey. They address the distinctions between the forensic and therapeutic roles of mental health professionals, and highlight the significant differences in how forensic psychologists approach and conduct evaluations as compared to clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists. In addition, the instructors provide an overview of the types of criminal and civil psychological evaluations typically conducted by forensic psychologists, including but not limited to:


I.   Criminal

a.   Criminal Competencies

b.   Criminal Responsibility (e.g., Diminished Capacity, Insanity)

c.   Sentencing Mitigation


II.   Civil

a.   Civil Commitment

b.   Civil Competencies

c.    Personal Injury

d.    Workers’ Compensation and Employment Discrimination

e.    Fitness for Duty

f.     Firearm Evaluations

g.    Immigration

h.    Domestic and Family Matters


Learning Objectives:

I.    Recognize the distinction between the roles of psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists in criminal and civil matters 

II.   Appreciate Forensic Mental Health Assessments (FMHAs): what they are, when to use them, and how they are conducted

III.  Grasp the different types of forensic psychological assessment approaches 

IV.  Identify the psychiatric disorders typically seen in criminal and civil cases

V.  Understand the considerations relevant to the direct and cross-examination of psychological and psychiatric experts



Daniel Agatino

Gruber Colabella Liuzza Williams

Attorney Daniel Agatino works on the firm's criminal defense team and is available for consultation in the Hopatcong, Newton, or Hamburg offices.

Educational Background

  • Ph. D., Rutgers University School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, New Brunswick, NJ 2002
  • Juris Doctorate, Rutgers University School of Law, Newark, NJ 1999
  • M.A. Communication, William Paterson University, 1995

Career History

  • Assistant Professor, College of Saint Elizabeth, 2000–Present
  • Adjunct Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law, 2007-Present
  • Law Office of Patricia Colligan, P.C., 2001-2008
  • Law Office of H. Scott Aalsberg, P.C., 2000-2001

Professional Accomplishments

  • Admitted to practice, State of New Jersey
  • Certified in Alternative Dispute Resolution, by Rutgers University School of Continuing Education
  • Regular guest commentator on TruTV's program, The Best Defense
  • Contributing Author in: How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth. John Wade II, Donald Frampton, Right Honorable Charles "Tony" Blair, and then President-Elect Barack Obama (Paperback - Jan. 11, 2010)
  • Author of: Teaching with Multimedia Pedagogy in the Webshpere, Volume 1, O'Connell, (Editor); Agatino, Daniel & Koski (co-authors) Copyright Theft in the Multimedia Classroom (Chapter 3), Hampton Press. NJ 2008 (Expected Publication Date).
  • Author of: Whistleblowing. Encyclopedia of Law Enforcement, Sullivan, Larry E., ed 3 vols. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005.

Dr. Pirelli received his Ph.D. from The Graduate Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is a Licensed Psychologist in New Jersey (#4975) and New York (#019418). His experience includes work in a number of inpatient and outpatient settings, including hospitals, psychiatric centers, and correctional facilities. Specifically, he trained and worked in 13 settings over the past 12 years: 4 hospital/inpatient, 4 outpatient, 3 forensic/inpatient, and 2 prisons. 


Dr. Pirelli currently maintains a private practice in clinical and forensic psychology, particularly in the area of forensic mental health assessment. He conducts a wide range of clinical and clinical-forensic evaluations in a variety of criminal and civil legal matters, including but not limited to:


Criminal: (a) Criminal Competencies; (b) Mental State at the time of the Offense/Criminal Responsibility; and (c) Sentencing Mitigation


Civil: (a) Personal Injury; (b) Workers’ Compensation/Disability; (c) Civil Commitment, incl. Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) evaluations; (d) Employment Harassment/Discrimination; (e) Civil Capacities, including Guardianship evaluations; and (f) Parenting Capacity/Risk


Other: (a) Firearm Evaluations (attaining ID cards and reinstatement); (b) Fitness-for-Duty; 

(c) Immigration; and (d) Violence and/or Sexual Risk Assessment 


Dr. Pirelli is also an Assistant Professor in Montclair State University's Psychology Department and an Adjunct Professor in Fairleigh Dickinson University's M.A. program in Forensic Psychology. He has taught approximately 40 post-doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate courses. In addition, Dr. Pirelli is on the editorial board for leading journals in the field, including Law and Human Behavior, the New Jersey Psychologist, and the Open Access Journal of Forensic Psychology


Dr. Pirelli also maintains an active clinical-forensic research program. He has given many professional conference presentations and invited talks, and he has numerous publications, including the forthcoming book, “The Ethical Practice of Forensic Psychology: A Casebook” (Oxford University Press), and chapters in books such as: Handbook of Forensic Psychology (4th Edition), Violent Offenders: Understanding and Assessment, and Psychology in the Courtroom. His research was cited in a 2011 amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court from the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.


Colleen S.


Robert E.

One of the best presentations I have seen. Both participants were highly knowledgable and interesting.

cassidy m.

the conversation presentation format is, in general, more engaging than the typical lecture format

Chris R.

Cross-discipline courses are always appreciated

Gerard S.

Great course.

Chris C.

Informative and interesting. Outstanding in every way.

Linda R.

Very informative and up to date.

William D.

Very well presented and informative.

John W.


Jean W.

Good presentation.

Gregory C.

It was good.

Karla C.

Good speakers; worked well together.

Dennis J.

great presentation

Rita Q.

Great seminar. Best one so far.

Hugh A. P.

Very helpful and interesting

Leta B.

I was impressed the speaker was sensitive to labeling people and displayed the wisdom of actually seeing people rather than just labels.

Margaret L.

This was right on for one of my current courses. Thanks!

Erich S.


James M.

Presenters were stellar. One of the best programs thus far.

Clara K.

Fantastic course. Very good presentation.


Wonderfully done!

Peter C.

Mr. Ferrelli came across very down to earth and real when he spoke about his role within the legal process. very interesting.

Yancey P.

Fantastic job on this topic.

Jeffrey P. R.

Good substance, but came across as a marketing piece.

Sally S.

very good

elizabeth v.

Excellent presentation and highly relevant to my practice.

William W.

very interesting subject on something i have little involvement - good to learn new things!

Rodrick W.

This seminar started me to seriously consider using a forensic psychologist in some of my PI cases where there are PTSD type injuries. It was very informative.

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