Criminal Justice

Because of brain differences, those with FASD are easily convinced to do things that are unsafe or illegal. They may take the blame for things they did not do, things they do not remember, or events they do not understand. Risky activities with peers can also create a sense of belonging.

Teens and adults with FASD are commonly charged with theft, property damage, and assault. Their risks of carrying out criminal behavior or being the victim of criminal acts are greater because they may:

  • Be impulsive and take risks without considering the consequences of their actions
  • Have a poor understanding of what might happen next
  • Not understand which actions might get them into trouble
  • Have a poor understanding of ownership and personal boundaries
  • Repeat the same offenses due to problems generalizing and learning from mistakes

Certain illegal behaviors are often seen in persons with FASD, including:

  • Running away
  • Shoplifting/theft (often involving items of little value)
  • Burglary
  • Drug offenses
  • Property damage
  • Vehicular crimes, such as car theft, or speeding
  • Domestic violence
  • Assault
  • Illegal sexual behavior
  • Probation/parole violations

Useful Links

Stopping the Revolving Door of the Justice Systems: Ten Principles for Sentencing Other Disposition of People With a FASD

FASD and the Criminal Justice System

American Bar Association: FASD Resolution

American Bar Association: FASD Identification and Advocacy

FASD: What the Justice System Should Know

The Importance (to the Juvenile Justice System) of Early Identification of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

FASD Forensic Assessment Experts

FASD and the Concept of “Intellectual Disability Equivalence” (Note:This article focuses on FASD and ID-Equivalence in civil and criminal contexts. It is a chapter in a book on ethical and legal perspectives on FASD in adults published in 2016.)

Mistakes I Have Made (Note:This article was written by a Canadian criminal defense attorney. Parents of Americans with FASD may generalize some of the information in discussions with American lawyers assisting their loved ones, as appropriate, but Canada-specific information or jargon will not apply.)

Wallet Card Describing FASD Impairments — for Persons with FASD to Show to Law Enforcement Personnel  This card, with information about FASD and legal rights, can be carried by a person with FASD and given to police.