Criminal Law

As the number of individuals with autism has dramatically increased in the last two decades, so too have autistic defendants in criminal proceedings. Such cases are extremely challenging to the criminal court system because autistic individuals’ motivations, perceptions, and intentions are often difficult for courts to comprehend. Questions of mental capacity and criminal intent are particularly challenging. Similarly, courts may fail to understand what prison sentences mean for autistic individuals. The issue of autism in criminal courts is likely to grow in significance as the large population of autistic children become adults. The kinds of criminal cases range from assault to murder and from charges related to child pornography to possession of weapons without license. Many of these criminal cases highlight the complex and disturbing ways in which criminal law is interfacing with the world of autism.