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

Help a Teen or Adult Avoid Trouble with the Law

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’s Center for Children and the Law: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders — Legal Issues

NOFAS Videotaped Press Conference: “FASD and the Criminal Justice System”

Journal of Psychiatry & Law. Volume 39, Number 1, Spring 2011. SPECIAL ISSUE: FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDERS (PART II)

A Proposed Model Standard for Forensic Assessment of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

FASD: What the Justice System Should Know

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

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Implications for the Juvenile Justice System

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.)

Justice system struggles to deal with fetal alcohol disorder: Prisons do little to help people with FASD get their lives on track

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.)

FASD Connections: Justice and Legal Issues

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.