Forensic Psychiatry

Forensic Psychiatry Services in Midtown Manhattan

Forensic psychiatry involves the application of psychiatric expertise in the justice system. Legal professionals count on forensic psychiatrists when they need to make an educated decision related to mental health. By applying psychiatric principles to the law, forensic psychiatrists help the justice system make fairer and more accurate decisions. They balance the needs of a person under evaluation with the risk of harm to others.

Ziv Ezra Cohen, M.D., has special training in forensic psychiatry. He has been appointed a psychiatric expert in State and Federal Court. He is President of the Tristate Chapter of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the professional organization for forensic psychiatrists.

Forensic Psychiatry vs. Forensic Psychology

The fields of forensic psychiatry and forensic psychology overlap in many aspects, but they have a few key differences. Both disciplines focus on the connection between mental health and the legal system. Each type of professional takes a different approach to this intersection. Forensic psychiatrists have training as medical doctors and can treat a wide range of mental illness, including with medication.

A forensic psychiatrist’s medical training makes them invaluable in situations that require extensive mental health evaluations. These professionals can perform lab tests and prescribe medication when necessary. With their expertise in the physical effects of mental health conditions, they can connect biological and psychological issues with legal situations.

Types of Forensic Psychiatry

Many types of legal cases can make use of forensic psychiatrists, including:

In the context of civil law, forensic psychiatrists perform multiple services. They can assess emotional and mental distress claims to evaluate the level of damage done against the person in question. In cases involving someone with a mental health condition, a forensic psychiatrist can assess their need for a caregiver or the presence of undue influence.

Forensic psychiatrists can evaluate a defendant’s mental health during criminal prosecution to inform their sentence. They help determine if a defendant can stand trial or work with their defense team. In some cases, forensic psychiatrists need to evaluate the mental health of a defendant when the crime happened.

Cases related to custody and child support sometimes require a forensic psychiatrist. The forensic psychiatrist can evaluate a parent’s mental health to see if they can safely have legal custody or receive child support.

Forensic Psychiatry Services Offered at Principium

Dr. Cohen offers the following forensic psychiatry services to legal professionals:

  • Consulting: Dr. Cohen can assist with trial preparation through expert psychiatry consultations. He supports legal professionals as they strive to understand the medical and psychiatric issues of a case.
  • Evaluations: In cases requiring mental health evaluations, Dr. Cohen can perform the tests needed to get critical information. He conducts examinations related to competency, undue influence, fitness for duty and many other topics.
  • Expert testimony: When a legal professional needs an expert witness, Dr. Cohen can provide professional testimony. After completing consulting or an evaluation, he can report his findings in a court of law.

Contact Us for Forensic Psychiatry and Consulting Services in NYC

When looking for a forensic psychiatrist near you in NYC, consider Dr. Cohen at Principium Psychiatry. Please contact our staff online to book an initial consultation with our forensic psychiatry doctor.

He is available for consultation on medical-legal issues, for forensic psychiatric evaluations and record reviews, and for expert testimony.

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Forensic Psychiatry Frequently Asked Questions

Forensic psychiatry is a professional subspecialty of psychiatry. The discipline of forensic psychiatry is focused on applying scientific and medical expertise to legal questions. This may occur in the criminal, civil, administrative, or other legal settings.

There are a wide variety of legal questions which may require a forensic psychiatrist to render an expert opinion.

For example, if you believe that you were the victim of medical negligence involving psychiatric care, you will likely need a forensic psychiatrist to review your case and provide an expert opinion to the court on whether the treatment you received met the standard of care. The defendant (i.e. the doctor rendering psychiatric care) will likely hire a forensic psychiatrist to analyze the care provided and opine whether it met the standard of care. This is an example from civil law.

In criminal law, a criminal defendant may require evaluation by a psychiatrist. For example, if the prosecution or the defense attorneys believe the defendant is not fit to stand trial (i.e. not mentally competent), a competency/fitness evaluation will be ordered by the court (in New York State this is called a “730 examination”). The psychiatrist will seek to answer the question whether the defendant is mentally competent to stand trial.

Another example from criminal law involves a defendant who believes he was not able to form the requisite mental state to be guilty for the crime charged. Certain crimes (such as murder) require the accused to have had a particular mental state (in the case of murder, “intent to cause the death of another person”). A forensic psychiatrist may be retained to evaluate the defendant’s mental state at the time of the offense. The prosecution may hire their own forensic psychiatrist to conduct an evaluation. There are numerous other types of situations which may arise in the criminal legal setting.

In family law, a question may be raised as to whether one member of a divorcing couple is fit to be a parent. A forensic psychiatrist will be hired by the divorcing couple, or by the court, to provide an assessment on the parent’s fitness.

In an administrative proceeding, such as a worker disability claim, the administrative body that must decide whether a claim has been met may require an expert opinion. For example, a worker who claims to have PTSD and depression from an accident in the workplace may require an independent evaluation by a forensic psychiatrist.

These are just a few examples of the kind of medical-legal questions which may give occasion for a forensic psychiatrist to be retained.

Medical negligence refers to a deviation from the standard of care. In a medical negligence case, the plaintiff argues that the care rendered did not meet the standards expected of a minimally competent physician.

The standard of care is usually defined as the minimum level of care that would be considered appropriate and which is commonly practiced by similar physicians in a given region. The standard of care may be influenced by the medical literature, e.g. studies and published treatment guidelines. The standard of care is meant to provided a minimum bar below which medical care does not fall. The standard of care does not mean that a patient has the right to a good outcome from medical care. The law recognizes that physicians do not have full control over medical outcomes, and that procedures and treatments have known complications which are not always avoidable. Generally, several criteria must be met to establish a claim of medical negligence/medical liability:

  • The physician rendered care which fell below the standard of care
  • The sub-standard care directly caused a bad outcome suffered by the patient
  • The bad outcome resulted in clear damages to the patient

This means that if a doctor provides sub-standard care and there is no poor outcome, it may be difficult to make a claim against the doctor for monetary damages. If the doctor provided minimally appropriate care and the patient had a bad outcome due to a known complication or side effect of the treatment, it may also be difficult to make a claim against the doctor. Medical negligence would be established if it were proven in court that the doctor provided sub-standard care, that the poor care caused a complication, and the complication resulted in clear damages to the patient.

A forensic psychiatrist may be hired by an attorney (e.g. defense, plaintiff, or prosecution attorney). At other times, particularly in civil matters, a forensic psychiatrist will sometimes be hired directly by the client.

A forensic psychiatrist will typically speak to the attorney and request any available written materials pertaining to the case. For example, previous medical and psychiatric records are important. The psychiatrist may also request other information about the person to be evaluated, such as school, military, and employment records.

The forensic psychiatrist will conduct a thorough interview of the evaluee. In addition, the forensic psychiatrist may speak with collateral sources, such as family members or colleagues.

The forensic psychiatrist will gather this and other information to formulate an opinion concerning the medical-legal question in the case. At this point, the forensic psychiatrist will usually share this opinion with the attorney. If the attorney wishes, he may request that the forensic psychiatrist put this opinion in writing, as a report, in order to share it with the other side to the legal dispute or with the court.

If the case proceeds to depositions or trial, the attorney may request the forensic psychiatrist provide direct oral testimony about his credentials or his opinion.

A forensic psychiatrist must successfully complete medical school and internship and become a licensed physician. The physician must then complete specialty training (residency program) in psychiatry. The physician may then sit for the Board Examination in Psychiatry, which qualifies him as a Board Certified Psychiatrist. Next, the physician must complete a fellowship program in forensic psychiatry. Upon completion of the fellowship program, the forensic psychiatrist is eligible to sit for the Board Examination in Forensic Psychiatry. Upon successful completion of this examination, the forensic psychiatrist is Board Certified in Psychiatry, with Added Qualifications in Forensic Psychiatry.

Dr. Cohen completed medical school at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City. He then completed internship and residency in psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital. Following completion of residency and successfully passing the Board Examination in psychiatry, Dr. Cohen worked for 2 years as a hospital psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He then served as a staff psychiatrist in the Israel Defense Forces. He then completed two fellowships in forensic psychiatry at Columbia University. He then rejoined the faculty at Weill Cornell Medical Center, where he is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry. Dr. Cohen teaches medical students, residents, and forensic psychiatry fellows at Weill Cornell Medical Center and Columbia University. Dr. Cohen is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with Added Qualifications in Forensic Psychiatry. He is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Cohen has worked on a wide array of forensic cases, such as:


  • Testamentary Capacity (i.e. capacity to write a will)
  • Medical negligence
  • Correctional (jail and prison) medical negligence and civil rights claims
  • Workplace harassment claims on the basis of sex and race (Title VII, Title IX, etc.)
  • Veterans issues


  • Competence to stand trial
  • Dangerousness assessments for the courts
  • Insanity Defense
  • Evaluations of Insanity Acquitees under New York CPL 330.20
  • Veterans issues


  • Divorce/Child Custody proceedings


  • Disability assessments
  • Root Cause Analysis consultations for healthcare organizations

Dr. Cohen has been qualified as an expert in psychiatry in New York State (criminal court, supreme court, family court, in multiple jurisdictions) and federal courts (Southern District of New York, Eastern District of New York, and Western District of North Carolina).


If requested by the attorney, the forensic psychiatrist will prepare a written report. The attorney will decide whether to share this report with opposing legal counsel and the court. At other times, the forensic psychiatrist is court appointment and required to submit a report directly to the judge.

Although we often think of expert witnesses as testifying in court, most cases in which a forensic psychiatrist is retained will not require testimony. For example, in a criminal case, often opposing lawyers will review the expert opinion and come to a plea agreement, thereby avoiding trial. In civil cases, opposing lawyers will review a report, which may help guide them in settling the case out of court. Thus, only in a minority of cases does a trial occur which would require oral testimony.

Yes, Dr. Cohen has provided testimony in civil and criminal court, at the state and federal level.

Yes, typically if one side hires a forensic psychiatrist, the other side will hire a forensic psychiatrist to seek to rebut the claims.

Yes, typically if the defendant is mounting a defense involving a psychiatric condition, both the defense and prosecution legal teams will higher forensic psychiatrists to provide expert opinions.

Any area of the law may potentially require a psychiatric expert opinion. Common areas of the law where forensic psychiatrists are retained include criminal, civil, family, and administrative law.

The ethical code of forensic psychiatry requires the forensic psychiatrist to be objective in formulating a medical-legal opinion. The forensic psychiatrist’s goal is to describe the psychiatric truth of the matter, subject to the available information. The forensic psychiatrist is paid for his time, i.e. the work involved in reviewing records, interviewing the evaluate, and the other steps involved in formulating an opinion. The forensic psychiatrist does not provide an opinion for hire.

The forensic psychiatrist’s ethical responsibility is to render an opinion according to the standards of the profession, to remain objective, and to seek the truth.

In order to set up a consultation, please call 917-993-5018 or email:

The initial telephone call with Dr. Cohen is free of charge. Thereafter, an hourly fee is charged.

Meet Our Doctor

Dr. Ziv E. Cohen is a Weill Cornell-affiliated and board certified psychiatrist with extensive experience treating mood disorders, trauma, PTSD, and a variety of other disorders. His experience lies with individuals across the lifecycle, including adolescents and adults. Dr. Cohen is also Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, and on the medical staff of New York Presbyterian Hospital, both in New York City.

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