Mental Disability Law and Criminal Law

Mental Disability Law and Criminal Law


20 Hours | 20 CEs (CEUs) | New York State CLEs

Program Description

This self-paced training program on Mental Disability Law and Criminal Law is presented by Professors Michael Perlin and Heather Ellis Cucolo.

It explores in depth the relationship between mental disability and the criminal trial process. Topics include all aspects of the criminal incompetency status (including trial, plea, counsel waiver and other pre-trial, trial and post-trial stages); the insanity defense; institutionalization and release policies that govern the cases of persons found permanently incompetent to stand trial and those found not guilty by reason of insanity; the right of forensic patients to refuse antipsychotic medications; the role of mental disability evidence in other aspects of criminal trial and pre-trial proceedings (including confessions and privilege against self-incrimination matters); sentencing, the death penalty (including issues involving mitigation, predictions of future dangerousness, executability of persons with mental retardation, and competency to be executed); and the effectiveness of counsel in cases involving defendants with mental disabilities.

The fee for this training program is $500 and includes all materials.

Intended Audience

This course is relevant for clinicians and forensic mental health professionals whose interests and focus is on expert evaluation and testimony in criminal cases involving defendants who are suffering from a mental illness or disability; mental health providers working with the legal and forensic systems; criminal justice professionals and criminologists; public defenders, assistant district attorneys and others who regularly are involved in such cases; staff of mental health and other problem-solving courts. This course is appropriate for both newly admitted and experienced attorneys. This training program is for beginner, intermediate, and advanced level clinicians.

Upon completion of this course, participants should be able to:


  • Describe how experts and attorneys interact at all stages of the criminal prosecution (pre-trial, at trial and post-trial)
  • Describe aspects of the criminal incompetency status including: competency to stand trial, competency to waive counsel, competency to plead guilty, and “other” competencies (pre-trial, at trial and post-trial)
  • Describe all issues related to the refusal of medication in cases involving forensic patients
  • Describe issues related to those currently incompetent to stand trial, those pleading the insanity defense, and those who have been convicted
  • Describe the insanity defense
  • Describe all issues related to the role of mental disability evidence at trial
  • Describe confessions and privilege against self-incrimination
  • Describe the interaction between experts and attorneys during sentencing and the significance of mental disability in Federal Sentencing Guidelines cases
  • Describe the full spectrum of issues in death penalty cases involving persons with mental disabilities (including those with mental illness and those with intellectual disabilities)
  • Describe questions of mitigation,
    Describe eligibility for the death penalty,
  • Describe competency to be executed
  • About Professors Cucolo and Perlin

    Michael L. Perlin is Professor of Law Emeritus at New York Law School (NYLS), founding director of NYLS’s Online Mental Disability Law Program, and founding director of NYLS’s International Mental Disability Law Reform Project in its Justice Action Center. He is also the co-founder of Mental Disability Law and Policy Associates. He has written 31 books and nearly 300 articles on all aspects of mental disability law, many of which deal with the overlap between mental disability law and criminal law and procedure. His most recent books are MENTAL DISABILITY AND THE DEATH PENALTY: THE SHAME OF THE STATES (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), A PRESCRIPTION FOR DIGNITY: RETHINKING CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND MENTAL DISABILITY LAW (Ashgate, 2013), SEXUALITY, DISABILITY AND THE LAW: BEYOND THE LAST FRONTIER? (with Alison J. Lynch, Esq.) (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), and Shaming the Constitution: The Detrimental Results of Sexual Violent Predator Legislation (with Prof. Cucolo) (Temple University Press 2017) . The third edition of his multi-volume treatise, MENTAL DISABILITY LAW: CIVIL AND CRIMINAL (Lexis-Nexis Press), 1998-2002), universally seen as the standard text in the area, was published in 2016 (this edition co-authored with Prof. Cucolo) , and is updated yearly. The third edition of his casebook, Mental Disability Law: Cases and Materials (Carolina Academic Press) (co-authored with Ms. Lynch and Prof. Cucolo, was published earlier in 2017. An earlier book, THE JURISPRUDENCE OF THE INSANITY DEFENSE (Carolina Academic Press, 1995) won the Manfred Guttmacher award of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law as the best book published that year. He has been named an Honorary Lifetime President of the new International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence.

    Before becoming a professor, Perlin was the Deputy Public Defender in charge of the Mercer County Trial Region in New Jersey, and, for eight years, was the director of the Division of Mental Health Advocacy in the NJ Department of the Public Advocate. He has represented thousands of persons with mental disabilities in individual and class actions, and has represented criminal defendants at every level from police court to the US Supreme Court (second-seating Strickland v. Washington, and representing amicus in Ake v. Oklahoma, and Colorado v. Connelly). He directed the online mental disability law program at New York Law School from 2000 to 2014, and through that program, offered 13 courses to lawyers, mental health professionals, and disability advocates. Through this program, he has also taught mental disability law courses in Japan, Nicaragua, Finland, Israel, Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Sweden. He has done extensive work in China with the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law—Asia office where he has conducted “Training of Trainers” workshops in Xi’an, China to teach experienced death penalty defense lawyers how to train inexperienced lawyers, employing the online distance learning methodologies used in the NYLS online program. He has also done advocacy work on behalf of persons with disabilities on every continent. In the fall semester of 2012, he served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist, teaching and consulting at the Islamic University of Jogjakarta, Indonesia. Four years earlier, also as part of the Fulbright designation, he taught in the Global Law Program at Haifa. Last year, he was elected to be co-chair of the Disability Rights Interest Group of the American.

    Heather Ellis Cucolo is an adjunct professor in New York Law School’s online mental disability law program, has served as Acting Director of that program, and has contributed to the development of courses within the program as well as assisted in collaboration with Asia-Pacific partners to foster international distance learning. Professor Cucolo currently teaches the Americans with Disabilities Act, Therapeutic Jurisprudence, Mental Disability Law and Sex Offenders to both law students, clinicians and other professionals.

    Cucolo has spoke at the United Nations, advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities in the Asia Pacific region and has advised international attorneys on the benefits and implications of the ADA. Cucolo has published and lectured –both domestically and internationally — in the areas of mental disability law, criminal law and sex offender law. Her most recent collaboration involved expanding Michael L. Perlin’s five-volume MENTAL DISABILITY LAW: CIVIL AND CRIMINAL (2d ed.) (Lexis-Nexis, 1998-2002) into a seven-volume third edition (forthcoming 2016). As part of her ongoing advocacy as an attorney, she has represented individuals facing civil commitment under both The New Jersey Mental Hygiene Law and the New Jersey’s Sexually Violent Predators Act. During her full-time position with the New Jersey Public Defender’s office (05-10),Cucolo handled over 300 cases at trial and argued numerous appeals in the New Jersey appellate court – many of which have been published. Cucolo has been recognized as one of the premiere experts in sexual violent predator law and has counseled attorneys, judges and clinicians on law and procedure in civil commitment proceedings and issues involving persons suffering from a mental disability or illness within the criminal justice system.

    This course is designed for all mental health professionals who wants to learn about mental disability law and criminal law. This course is an excellent means of strengthening skills about mental disability and the criminal trial process.

    Trial Process

    Participants will explore in depth the relationships between mental disability and the criminal trial process
    – Criminal Competency: Substantive, Procedural, and Dispositional
    – Criminal Competency: Competency to Waive Counsel and Plead Guilty
    – Insanity Defense: Substantive
    – Insanity Defense: Procedural, Dispositional, Myths, and Politics
    – Refusal of Medication in Forensic Cases

    Trial-Related Issues

    Participants will learn in depth about criminal incompetency status, defenses, and related issues
    – Trial Process Issues
    – Issues as the Sentencing Stage and upon Conviction
    – Death Penalty in Cases of Defendants with Mental Disabilities
    – Death Penalty in Cases of Mentally ill and Intellectually Disabled
    – Adequacy of Counsel

    “Fantastic course, extremely satisfied!” -Psychologist (PhD)

    “This was an excellent course! Great information presented in an interesting format with lots of case discussion. Thank you!” -Psychologist (JD, PhD)

    “Thank you for a thorough discussion of the relevant case law in criminal mental health law. This course sets an important foundation for attorneys dealing with clients who have mental health concerns and Perlin and Cucolo know their stuff!!” -Public Defender (JD)


    Continuing Education Credit

    This Distance Learning Course is a Home Study Training Program. To earn CEs you are required to complete all course materials, quizzes, and the evaluation. No partial credit is available. A score of 70% is required to proceed; you will be able to re-take any quiz on which you score less than 70%. Participants will earn 20 CE hours upon completion of these requirements. Each participant will be able to download and print the CE certificate upon completion of the final evaluation.

    Board Approvals: APA, ASWB, CPA, NBCC. Click here for state and other regional board approvals.

    Your satisfaction with our programs, products and services is important to us; however, because these are immediately made available to you upon registration and payment, we do not issue refunds. Should you find that a particular program, product or service is not the right fit for you, we will assist you in crediting your registration towards another one of our offerings that might better suit you.

    We specialize in training groups — from a handful to hundreds — and are happy to contact you to discuss your group training needs.

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