Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the United States. Some studies suggest diagnosis rates are rising by over 10 percent a year.
Autism spectrum disorders can be very severe. People with autism may struggle to understand basic concepts and to communicate. It can be difficult to gain employment with autism. These considerable obstacles to living a normal life means autistic people are more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system.
There’s plenty of evidence that the Arizona courts have not adapted to the increase in autism spectrum cases.
Social and communication difficulties can have a bearing on a defendant’s competency to stand trial. Autism spectrum disorder covers a wide range of intellectual abilities but many people with autism struggle to comprehend and effectively communicate with court officials and their own attorney.
Rule 11 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure deals with the competency of a defendant to stand trial.
In order for a defendant to be found competent to stand trial, he or she must be able to consult with a lawyer with a rational degree of understanding and have a rational and factual understanding of the legal proceedings.
Although the courts deal with many instances of defendants on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as there is no uniform standard on how this relates to the ability of the defendant to understand court proceedings.
Studies suggest a limited number of medical professionals are able to judge the ability of someone with autism to be competent to stand trial.
Courts in Arizona and elsewhere do find people with autism incompetent to stand trial but these cases are rare.
These cases occasionally receive media coverage. In 2016 in Miami, Florida, Tony Rodriguez, an autistic man with an IQ of just 73 was released from jail after he was found incompetent to stand trial.
Rodriguez was accused of downloading child porn. A federal judge found the Miami man was “incompetent” to assist in his own defense, the Miami Herald reported.
Talk to a Phoenix Defense Lawyer if Your Family Member with Autism was Arrested
At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney Bernardo Garcia has helped hundreds of people with mental illnesses and developmental disorders like autism. Often the criminal justice system can fail to recognize the unique needs of people with autism unless a criminal defense lawyer makes a case on their behalf. Please call the firm as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.