Crime and Legal Issues among Intellectually Disabled Individuals

Crime and Legal Issues among Intellectually Disabled Individuals

Vaitsa Giannouli (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0089-6.ch018


Intellectual Disability (ID) can be caused by a variety of factors, which may lead to a variety of signs and symptoms. Individuals with ID are living in societies where during the past decade there is a steady increase in the amount of research focused on civil law, criminal law and mental health. In this chapter, there will be a theoretical presentation of the research on ID regarding criminal law and the different forms of aggressive behavior such as sexual violence, homicide, theft, arson and alcohol-drug abuse. There will be information on research regarding civil law and the most common problems for individuals with ID, such as financial capacity and capacity for medical consent. Finally, there will be a section for the most important issues regarding the trial and conviction for individuals with ID and a presentation of a recent research on attitudes toward ID and legal issues. The above will be examined through the prism of current neuropsychological data, while cross-cultural restrictions will be discussed.
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Criminal Law And Individuals With Id

In western societies, there is a general tendency to consider individuals with ID as a group of people who are more likely to commit a crime (New South Wales. Law Reform Commission, 1994). Individuals with ID may be over-represented in the criminal justice system (Baroff, Gunn & Hayes, 2004; Hayes, 1996; Holland, Clare, & Mukhopadhyay, 2002; Jones, 2007; Søndenaa, Rasmussen, Palmstierna, & Nøttestad, 2008), given the intellectual and other psychosocial disadvantages which they experience and their incapacity to evade arrest, but the level of offending behavior in this group is found to be strikingly low (Holland et al., 2002), because much criminal activity of individuals with ID goes undetected or unreported, and as a result scientific research can only investigate data and individuals who are already involved with the criminal justice process. Individuals with ID are not overrepresented in prisons in most western countries (Murphy & Mason, 2014). For example, the likelihood of conviction for a man with ID in Sweden is as high as for a man without disability (Hodgins, 1992). It is of special interest that in a research from Denmark convicted individuals with ID, who had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals were found to have an increased risk of committing various kinds of crimes in comparison with individuals with ID without a previous admission history (Hodgins et al., 1996).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Financial Capacity: The capacity of an individual to manage his/her own money-financial affairs and make relevant decisions while keeping in mind all possible financial-legal consequences of his/her acts.

Intellectual Disability: A new term used for disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and inadaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills and refers to individuals who are under 18 years of age. Intellectual Disability has replaced the term mental retardation.

Forensic Neuropsychological Assessment: The evaluation of performance on various areas of functioning, which is based on the use of standardized testing methods focusing on cognitive, behavioral and emotional functioning which aim at clarifying issues for legal decision-making.

Crime: This general term denotes an unlawful act punishable by the state.

Civil Law: Civil Law consists a branch of law, which consists of non-criminal law.

Criminal Law: Criminal Law consists a branch of law, which relates to crime.

Miranda Rights or Miranda Warning: Warning given by the police in the USA to criminal suspects in police custody or in a custodial interrogation stating that: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can or will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

Sexual Abuse: Any form of forced-undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another.

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