Reflecting on Crime and Legal Issues in People With Intellectual Disabilities: Theory, Perspectives, and Future Approaches

Reflecting on Crime and Legal Issues in People With Intellectual Disabilities: Theory, Perspectives, and Future Approaches

Vaitsa Giannouli (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1223-4.ch014
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This chapter discusses research findings on intellectual disability (ID), criminal law, and the different forms of aggressive behavior such as sexual violence, homicide, theft, arson, and alcohol-drug abuse. ID is a generalized neurodevelopmental disorder, characterized by significantly impaired and varying intellectual-adaptive functioning. Given that a number of legal issues have been raised over the past decades regarding individuals with ID and civil as well as criminal law, particular attention will also be given to neuropsychological 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 research on attitudes toward ID and legal issues. The chapter concludes with suggestions for reform of the law relating to ID and the need for further research.
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The chapter is an attempt to present the latest information regarding crime and legal issues among individuals with Intellectual Disability (ID). The widespread adoption of a changed construct and of a new term, which replaces mental retardation by renaming it in DSM 5 (Schalock, Luckasson & Shogren, 2007), and the legislatively mandated changes in terminology (Stavrakantonaki & Johnson, 2018), can not clarify and examine in depth the significance of ID for a number of legal issues. As scientific literature indicates the theme of legal issues turns out to be particularly salient for ID worldwide (Levine, Proulx & Schwartz, 2018). Researchers in psychology and law (legal psychology and forensic psychology) become more interested in examining aspects of individuals with ID, who may play the role of suspect or victim according to the criminal law (Carr et al., 2016; McCarthy et al., 2019), or the role of the person who claims civil capacities according to the civil law. As a result, this chapter will be an in-depth introduction, which will be focused on a variety of relevant themes, which are selected in order to include key terms and information on law and ID.

Key Terms in this Chapter

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.

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.

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

Criminal Law: Criminal law is a branch of law that relates to crime.

Civil Law: Civil law is a branch of law that consists of non-criminal law.

Intellectual Disability: A new term used for disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and non-adaptive 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.

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.

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