Assessment of Legal Competencies in Court Cases
Perhaps the single most common psychological evaluation conducted in criminal court cases is whether a defendant is or is not legally competent to participate in an ongoing court case. Dr. Romanoff has conducted more than five hundred competency evaluations on behalf of defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges in both state and federal court. His considerable expertise in working with individuals who suffer from severe psychiatric impairments such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other psychotic disorders often helps him to elicit relevant information directly related to issues of competency that often go undetected. For example, , hidden delusional thinking (especially of a paranoid nature), or active auditory hallucinations, can seriously interfere with a defendant's ability to rationally cooperate with his or her attorney in pursuit of an appropriate resolution of their case.
Evaluation of Trauma and Its Effects on Behavior
The effects of physical and psychological trauma are often at the heart of personal injury litigation. Trauma and its aftereffects can also permanently undermine healthier psychological functioning. Bringing these impacts to the surface, and carefully explaining their ongoing effects to juries and judges can directly impact case outcomes in civil cases. Psychological impairment resulting from trauma can also serve as a foundation for obtaining meaningful downward departures from more severe levels of court imposed punishment in criminal cases. Dr. Romanoff specializes in establishing the type of safe interview environment where individuals can more freely share relevant experiences that are often hidden. He also specializes in assessing the impacts of trauma on overall and current psychological functioning.
Evaluation of Sex Offenders and Those Charged with Sex Offenses
Since 1985 Dr. Romanoff has conducted in excess of one thousand evaluations of alleged and convicted sex offenders. He has extensive experience in conducting evaluations of a wide range of sex offenders, including offenses associated with child pornography, child sex offenses, and a wide variety of other criminal sexual behavior. From 1996 through 2013 Dr. Romanoff served on the State of California panel that evaluates individuals pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Section 6600 (the California Sexually Violent Predator Statute). Dr. Romanoff maintains familiarity with the literature on sexual offense recidivism and is familiar with validated measures used to assess future dangerousness. He is highly respected by judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys for his work in this area.
Assessment of the Role of Mitigating or Aggravating Factors
on Case Specific Behavior
More than ninety percent of all court cases settle before going to trial. Often, credible psychological assessments can serve as a critical source of information for achieving optimal outcomes in connection with the plea bargain or civil court resolution process. Dr. Romanoff specializes in developing detailed historical reviews of relevant psychological factors, and in uncovering current cognitive and psychiatric impairments that directly contribute to case specific behavior. In civil matters, these factors can often dramatically affect the negotiating process for both defendants and plaintiffs, and in criminal matters, the presence of mitigating factors can often serve as the basis for improved outcomes (especially when combined with meaningful treatment interventions).
Reconstruction of Mental State at the Time of an Offense
Many crimes involve specific or general intent issues that may be directly affected by existing cognitive or psychiatric impairment. Dr. Romanoff specializes in reconstructing mental states at the time of a particular offense, in an effort to assess whether that individual did or did not possess the required relevant mental state for that charged offense. Dr. Romanoff has conducted more than one hundred evaluations of individuals charged with the killing of another human being, in order to assess whether a particular relevant level of intent was or was not present.
Assessment of Malingering and Symptom Exaggeration
The lack of credibility that often accompanies psychological evaluations used in forensic settings often results from the tendency of mental health evaluators to underestimate the prevalence of malingering and symptom exaggeration by individuals who have so much at stake in any particular court case. Dr. Romanoff routinely seeks to obtain objective and credible information, from as many sources as possible, including relevant psychological testing, to first convince himself of the accuracy of his conclusions. His systematic efforts to evaluate the credibility of each individual evaluated directly contributes to creating an air of impartiality regarding his final conclusions, that enhances his credibility with judges and juries.
Assessment of Dangerousness and Suitability for Community Supervision
As jail and prison populations mushroom, and as federal and state authorities face growing budgetary constraints, judges and federal and state prosecutors are under increasing pressure to factor in issues of dangerousness and suitability for community-based treatment before imposing a final sentence. Dr. Romanoff specializes in conducting comprehensive psychological evaluations of individuals to assess such risk, and to assess an individual's suitability for community based treatment, by combining state-of-the-art risk assessment evaluations that are integrated with an individual's actual life circumstances and history. Comprehensive community-based treatment plans, that include relevant substance abuse and mental health treatment interventions crafted to ensure meaningful treatment and community safety are made. While not all individuals are eligible for such options, many are, and many others may be considered for shorter prison sentences if the sentencing judge believes that a meaningful and safe treatment plan can be instituted for that individual immediately upon their return to the community.
Assessment and Impact of Substance Abuse on Case Related Behavior
The United States Department of Justice estimates that up to two thirds of all incarcerated individuals suffer from serious substance abuse difficulties and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse estimates that up to eighty-five percent of all individuals incarcerated suffer from some level of a substance abuse disorder. Dr. Romanoff specializes in conducting assessments to determine whether such difficulties are present for any given individual, and also on whether such difficulties affected their functioning in the period of time associated with their involvement in some particular criminal or civil matter. Dr. Romanoff also specializes in helping clients to acknowledge these difficulties to themselves, and then helps them to find and pursue meaningful substance abuse treatment. Involvement in such programs can often contribute to significant improvements in the eventual outcome associated with their court case.
Assessment of Legal Insanity
Since 1985 Dr. Romanoff has evaluated more than two hundred individuals who have been found to be, or who are being evaluated for sanity at the time of an offense. Dr. Romanoff specializes in conducting comprehensive evaluations in connection with this often misunderstood legal defense. Recognizing the significant hurdles facing any successful pursuit of this defense, Dr. Romanoff works to collect and structure a comprehensive presentation aimed at helping the trier of fact understand the complex psychological issues at play, and also to understand the detailed sequence of behaviors exhibited by the defendant to establish their legal insanity, if present. Dr. Romanoff has been successful in helping to obtain findings of legal insanity by convincing both prosecutors and juries in multiple court cases.
Comprehensive Psychological Evaluations in Death Penalty Cases
There is no more important psychological evaluation than the one pursued in connection with a capital case. It is now considered essential to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of each individual in such circumstances, in an effort to fully assess their cognitive and emotional functioning, and in an effort to comprehensively reconstruct their entire life history, in order to detect and present evidence of any possible mitigating factors that might be weighed by the trier of fact in assessing whether that individual should or should not receive the ultimate legal sanction. Dr. Romanoff has participated in more than twenty such evaluations, and these evaluations have at times been cited as a contributing factor that led to the imposition of a life sentence rather than a death sentence. Dr. Romanoff has engaged in these evaluations both at the time of the original court case and in connection with both state and federal appeals. He regularly works with and coordinates with other relevant experts to ensure that no potential mitigating factor goes undiscovered.