Heather Zelle

  • Assistant Professor of Research, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia

Heather Zelle, J.D., Ph.D., is licensed as an attorney in Pennsylvania and as a clinical psychologist in Virginia. She completed her graduate training in Drexel University’s joint J.D./Ph.D. program with Villanova University School of Law. Her clinical work includes conducting forensic assessments examining psycholegal issues such as competency to stand trial, criminal responsibility, and capacity to waive Miranda rights. Her research and policy interests include capacity to waive Miranda rights, guilty pleas, and advance health care directives with instructions for mental health care. Currently, Zelle is coordinating the research efforts regarding the integration of advance directives with instructions for mental health care into routine care in Virginia. She is also integrally involved with implementation efforts for advance directives in Virginia. 

Zelle’s past research has focused on several areas in forensic psychology, including comprehension of Miranda rights, judicial interpretation of legal capacities, and forensic assessment in juvenile and adult cases. She has co-authored several publications, including chapters in the Handbook of Psychology: Forensic Psychology, Forensic Assessment in Criminal and Civil Law: A Handbook for Lawyers, and the forthcoming APA Handbook of Forensic Psychology. Zelle also is a co-author on a set of forensic assessment instruments, the Miranda Rights Comprehension Instruments. She has taught and presented on a range of psycholegal topics, including invited lectures and for George Washington University’s Forensic Psychology program.


  • Ph.D.
    Drexel University
  • J.D.
    Villanova University School of Law
  • M.S.
    Drexel University
  • B.A.
    Lycoming College

Current Courses

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