Alienist Law and Legal Definition

An alienist means a psychiatrist who is an expert in sanity trial. An alienist usually analyzes a criminal defendant’s capacity to stand trial. Earlier, an alienist meant a doctor specializing in mental illness treatment.

The following are examples of caselaw on the term:

In People v. Norton, 138 Cal. App. 70 (Cal. App. 1934), the court observed that the word "alienist" as used in Cal Pen Code § 1027 means some person qualified, by reason of experience, knowledge and previous opportunity, to examine and give his/her opinion as to the mental condition of a defendant at a particular time.

The purpose of allowing the court to appoint alienists is to aid and assist the court and jury in the determination of the sanity of the accused at the time of the commission of the crime charged against him/her [People v. Lee, 108 Cal. App. 609 (Cal. App. 1930)].

In People v. Carskaddon, 123 Cal. App. 177 (Cal. Ct. App. 1932), the court observed that “Cal Pen Code § 1027 requires the court to appoint two alienists, at least one of whom must be from the medical staffs of the state hospitals, who shall examine a defendant and investigate his sanity, and testify in regard thereto in any proceeding in which the sanity of the defendant is in question. It is then provided that the alienists so appointed may be called and examined by either of the parties to the action, or by the trial judge himself”.