‘Aggravating & Mitigating Circumstances’

Can Addiction Be Used as Legal Defense for Drug Possession Charges?

Recent medical and psychological studies have shown that there are neurophysiological mechanisms associated with drug addiction. The revelations have created a debate among legal theorists about whether or not addiction diminishes responsibility. While some agree with the theory, others claim that the studies do not involve coercion, compulsion, or irrationality that would excuse an addict from punishment for crimes committed under influence of drugs. The general argument is that in as much as addiction is a disease, addicts are responsible for their condition and failing to take the necessary measures to manage their addiction is not an excuse to commit crimes. So how does the law view addiction and drug possession? If an addict is accused of drug possession, can the fact that he or she is addicted to drugs have any bearing on the case? Can a forensic psychologist recommend drug rehabilitation or another substance abuse treatment program as an alternative to prison? Voluntary Intoxication and Addiction is Not a Legal Defense Drug addiction or voluntary intoxication is not a legal defense but can be considered as a reason to reach a favorable resolution. However, this… Read More

Arguably Minor Misconducts That Were Given Major Punishments

The Strive for Fair Punishment There was a young man named Tony. At the age of 18, he met and fell in love with a girl whom his friends also knew. While they became really close, it did not occur to him to ask about her age. Their relationship became much deeper and consensual sex was one of the things that happened between them. Their sexually highlighted relationship was soon discovered by the girl’s dad. It became clear to Tony that he was having sex with a 17-year-old girl. Of course, the girl’s father was enraged and sought to put Tony in jail. Through statutory rape charges, the young man was detained in an adult detention facility. The girl’s father also made the complaint heavier by accusing Tony that he knew that the girl was a minor right from the start. Tony’s detention in the facility was because of the fact that everything happened on a weekend. His parents hired legal counsel. However, when they went to the detention center, they were informed that the young man had been transferred already to an unknown county jail. Their… Read More

Emotional Extremes Of A Criminal Not Necessarily An Emotional Disorder

A lot of criminals or social offenders are characterized by quick changes in their moods, from extremely high to extremely low. These changes in moods can happen frequently — even within a single day of a criminal’s life. He or she may appear to be elated at one time, feeling that he or she is in control, but in a short span of time, will just snap out of it and become sad and bad-tempered. These quick changes in moods may be seen by others as an emotional disorder that needs medical attention. Realistically speaking, if a professional were to look into a criminal’s mind, he or she will soon determine that a criminal’s quickly changing moods may really because of his or her unrealistic expectations of the people around him or her and of himself or herself. Offenders commit such mistakes of setting improper expectations and when he or she commits crimes, it is because he or she thinks there is something wrong with other people, not with himself or herself. He or she expects other people to behave the way he or she expects them… Read More

Should We Be More Concerned With Prenatal Exposure In The Prevention Of Crime?

Crime and violence has existed throughout human history, and the search for answers as to what causes such behavior has lead to a variety of proposed theories. Criminal behavior is often associated with a variety of social and environmental risk factors that people are exposed to throughout life; lack of education, unstable family life and poverty are some of the most common examples. According to this perspective, crime is a result of a combination of these risk factors that people are exposed to in their lifetime. The purpose of this post is to explore another perspective, which emphasizes the role prenatal exposure to environmental and biological substances plays in the development of criminal behavior later in life. The effects of lead exposure, and maternal and second-hand smoking will be discussed, along with statistics as they relate to the topic. Additionally, the evolutionary neuroandrogenic theory, which suggests a link between prenatal androgen exposure and criminal behavior, will be examined. The goal of this post is to highlight the complexity of crime, and to help illustrate why one particular theory alone is not sufficient in determining the origin of… Read More

Study Review: Borderline Personality Disorder and Social-Cognitive Deficits

Those afflicted with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are characterized with a variety of cognitive and emotional deficits seen throughout life regarding the regulation of emotions, impulsivity, and maladaptive images of self and others. This often leads to a pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships. Early life trauma and genetics are theorized to play major roles in the development of this condition. Up until recently, research has mostly been focused on the neurophysiological abnormalities that may play a role in the disorder, particularly in the amygdala, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex, all of which are thought to be involved in emotional and affective processing, and the regulation responses to stress. The purpose of this post is to review a study called “Dysregulation between emotion and theory of mind networks in borderline personality disorder”. Rather than strictly look at the physiological aspects of borderline personality disorder, researchers O’Neill and colleagues instead focus on the potential social-cognitive deficits, including mentalization and theory of mind, while also observing any differences in functional connectivity within the neural networks. Mentalization refers to the process in which people internally and externally interpret the actions of… Read More

Deindividuation | Kenneth Padowitz, P.A.

Some of our recent discussions have been concerned with topics relating to how individuals tend to underestimate the role of environmental or situational influences on behavior, and to overestimate individual personality factors, when concerning other people. To recap, the fundamental attribution error is a term, which refers to the common human error in which people tend to underestimate situational influences and overestimate individual personality factors, when explaining behavior. We also looked at one example of the fundamental attribution error, crimes of obedience, which is defined as: an act performed in response to orders from authority that is considered illegal or immoral by the larger community. We discovered that this phenomenon can occur in various circumstances of violence, even in cases of nonviolence including white collar crime or government scandal such as Watergate. This post will explore the concept of deindividuation, which is based on the classic crowd theory in the book The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind by Gustave Le Bon. Deindividuation tends to refer to the fact that when people are placed into groups or surrounded by a crowd, many people seemingly lose their sense of identity… Read More

Crimes of Obedience

In my last post, we discussed a psychological term, the fundamental attribution bias, and were able to determine how it affects the way people make judgments about others. To recap, the fundamental attribution error is a term, which refers to the common human error in which people tend to underestimate situational influences and overestimate individual personality factors, when explaining behavior. This post will focus on the phenomenon of crimes of obedience, which is defined as: an act performed in response to orders from authority that is considered illegal or immoral by the larger community. This phenomenon can occur in various circumstances of violence, and even in cases of nonviolence including white collar crime in the corporate world. An example of crimes of obedience within a nonviolent political context could be Nixon’s Watergate scandal. In summary, this was a highly publicized political scandal occurring in the United States due to the 1972 break-in at the DNC (Democratic National Committee) headquarters in Washington, D.C. One “shocking” study, mentioned in nearly every psychology textbook, which was conducted by Milgram in 1977, demonstrated the effect of obedience to authority in a sample of… Read More

Hare’s Idea of a Psychopath

What Is A Psychopath? Psychopath is a term used to describe a person with a certain cluster of psychological, interpersonal, and neurophysiological traits, distinguishing them from the rest of the population. Robert Hare, an expert in psychopathy, describes these individuals as: “…social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and empathy, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of regret. Hare also separated psychopaths into three distinct categories: the primary psychopath, the neurotic psychopath (also known as secondary), and the dyssocial psychopath. What is a Primary Psychopath? According to Hare, the primary psychopath is the “true” psychopath; secondary and dyssocial psychopaths have little in common physiologically with that of a primary psychopath. A primary psychopath has certain cognitive, psychological, emotional, and neurophysiological differences that separate them from the other types of psychopaths, and the general public. These individuals are believed to be charming, and are often above average in intelligence. Genetics is believed to… Read More

Parental Alienation Syndrome | How Common Is It?

Parental Alienation Syndrome During a divorce, most reasonable parents will believe that it is in the best interest of the child if they have a healthy relationship with both parents. What may seem more important at the time is the strengthening of their own parent-child relationship. Parental alienation syndrome occurs when one parent unconsciously, or in many cases consciously, manipulates their child into disliking the other parent. Even if both parents have good intentions, one may unintentionally bad-mouth or make negative comments about the other parent; the child may begin to side with one or the other, and in the most severe cases, will refuse to see or talk to the “alienated” parent. Cases of alienation have been reported even in “friendly” divorces. As cases of divorce have been increasing in recent years, parental alienation has also become more common. Many mild cases, in which the disturbance between the alienated parent and child is subtle, may be misinterpreted as normal part of adjusting to the divorce; many cases of parental alienation and PAS go unreported. Parental alienation is a term, which is focused on the parent’s behavior;… Read More

Capgras Syndrome | Is Delusion a Defense?

 Capgras Syndrome Capgras syndrome is a delusional disorder, which results in those afflicted believing an impostor has replaced someone or something close to them. Capgras syndrome (CS) is one of four variations of delusional misidentification syndrome, a group of disorders in which the identity of someone or something close to the patient is believed to have changed. Capgras syndrome, the focus of this post, will be explored in greater detail in terms what it may be like to live with this condition and will mention any similar disorders as they relate to the discussion of the topic. The purpose of this is to explore the cognitive theories that have been devised to explain why delusional disorders such as Capgras develop, and how they are maintained, including: The Impostor and Brain Damage hypotheses, both one-stage models, along with different variations of the two-stage model, ending with the Interactionist model. Delusional misidentification syndrome consists of a group of delusional disorders all involving dysfunctional affective responses to external stimuli. Researchers are able to measure covert, or unconscious, familiarity through skin conductance response (SCR) tests. These disorders are worth mentioning because… Read More