Attorneys may need the services of a psychologist to evaluate whether a client is competent to stand trial, to present evidence regarding a mental health defense or mitigation, or to perform other psychological testing of a client. Attorneys have asked me whether a psychologist needs to be licensed in NC to perform these services. I’ll attempt to answer below.
In a capital case, if the defense seeks to establish that the defendant is mentally retarded, NC General Statutes require that the IQ test be administered by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-2005 (2014).
For other types of psychological services, the N.C. Psychology Practice Act sets standards for practicing psychology in North Carolina, and includes requirements for education, examination, supervision, and licensing. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-270 (2013). The Act allows certain types of consultation and testimony to be provided by a non-licensed psychologist. For example, if testimony is needed regarding the characteristics of a particular mental health disorder, this type of general information could be provided by a non-licensed psychologist. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-270.4(a). However, if the case requires that the expert conduct any testing or evaluation of the defendant, the expert would need to be a licensed psychologist because this work would involve the provision of psychological services to an individual.
The Act includes an exemption that allows for psychologists licensed outside of North Carolina to practice within the state. Psychologists licensed in other states can apply for an exemption to practice psychology, including the provision of health services, in North Carolina for either five or 30 days in any calendar year. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-270.4(f). The psychologist should contact the North Carolina Psychology Board to apply for this limited right to practice in North Carolina.
Though there may be limited circumstances in which a psychologist who does not have a license may provide expert services in North Carolina, it is advisable for attorneys to use a licensed psychologist or to consult with the NC Psychology Board to determine whether the use of a non-licensed psychologist is permissible. Attorneys can visit the NC Psychology Board’s website to verify whether a psychologist has an active license in North Carolina and whether there are any disciplinary issues currently or recently impacting their licensure.