When Someone with an FASD

is Arrested:
What You Need to Know
Paul Connor, Ph.D.
Private Practice Des Moines, WA
Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit, University of Washington
paul@connornp.com
www.connornp.com
www.FASDExperts.com
NOFAS Webinar Series
April 15, 2015

Prevalence of FASD Around the World

General Populations
 Seattle: 1/100 (FAS and ARND)
 Russia: 7.9/100 (FAS only)
 South Africa: 4.6/100 (FAS only)

US and Western Europe Estimate for FASD 2-5%

Sampson, et al., Teratology, 1997
Riley et al., ACER, 2003
May et al., Am J Public Health, 2000
May et al., Dev Dis Res Rev 2009

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PREVALENCE
Why Is FASD Relevant in a Forensic Context?
Secondary Disabilities
100

Ages 6 - 51

Ages 21 - 51

90
80
70

%

60
50
40
30
20
10
Mental Health
Problems

Trouble With
the Law

Disrupted School
Experience

Inappropriate Sexual
Behavior

Confinement

Dependent
Living

Alcohol & Drug
Problems

Problems with
Employment

Ages 6-51 (n=408-415)
Ages 21-51 (n=89-90)

Lifespan Prevalence of Secondary Disabilities & Sequelae

FAS/FAE ages 12–51 yrs (n=253)

Trouble with the Law

60%

Arrested

44%

Charged

41%

Convicted

30%

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Lifespan Prevalence of

Types of Trouble with The Law
FAS/FAE ages 12–51 yrs (n=253)

Persons (not sex-related)
Property
Possession / selling
Persons (sex-related * )
Driving violations
Legal system processes
Other (runaway, lying to police, etc.)

45%
24%
19%
14%
10%
10%
6%

* Rape, molestation, incest, prostitution

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Prevalence of FASD in Forensic Settings

Juvenile Justice:
 23% (FAS and ARND)
Youth Probation
 ~4.5% diagnosed with FASD
 26% identified to be at risk but not formally diagnosed at that
time
Adult Prison
 Incidence of FASD in Canadian prison was 10x higher than
in general population.
Fast, Conry, Loock, 1999
Canadian DOJ, 2005
MacPherson, 2007

Why is FASD
Relevant in Court?

FASD = brain damage that may affect executive
functioning 

Executive functioning = judgment, decision
making, impulse control 

Judgment, decision making, impulse control
impact all aspects of behavior in the legal
context

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SUGGESTIBILITY

COMPARISON OF FASD FORENSIC, FASD
NON-FORENSIC AND US CONTROLS
Forensic
FASD Sample
(n=7) Mean/SD

Trowbridge NonForensic
FASD Sample
(n = 8) Mean/SD

Trowbridge
Controls
(n =72)
Mean/SD

Immediate Recall

7.8/6.6

10.8/4.7

18.9/5.2

Delayed Recall

6.1/5.3

---

---

Yield 1

7.9/4.2

7.0/2.7

3.4/2.5

Yield 2

9.3/2.0

---

---

Shift

9.9/3.2

8.5/3.6

4.0/3.2

Total Suggestibility

17.7/4.9

15.5/5.2

7.4/5.1

GSS2 Subscale

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Neuropsychological Assessment:


Important for documenting pattern of strengths
and weaknesses
Establishing the basis for an ultimate diagnosis
Discussing how the impairments can impact the
person’s daily life

BUT…

…Forensic Assessment Must
Address The Nexus
(i.e. Link FASD to Offense Conduct):
prenatal exposure

brain damage in fetus

lifelong cognitive-behavioral deficits

specific deficits in judgment, decision-making, cause-andeffect awareness, and impulse control

instant offense behavior

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NEXUS
How did Client’s FASD affect his behavior
during the instant offense?
A PRIORI:
Impulsive, illogical offense behaviors that
don’t make sense.

What To Do if Someone with
FASD Gets In Trouble with the
Law:

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The Attorney

Finding an attorney familiar with FASD

Several around the country

OR
Finding an attorney willing to learn about FASD

An attorney familiar with FASD and can
recommend colleagues in other parts of the country

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http://www.fasdcenter.samhsa.gov/

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Wallet Cards

Juneau Police were informed about
the cards and were receptive

If No Formal Diagnosis…

Get a formal assessment that involves at least
 Neuropsychological Assessment that is
focused on tests sensitive to impacts of prenatal
alcohol exposure.
 Medical

Assessment that measures physical

features, takes into account other possible etiologies
and renders formal medical diagnosis
 Historical/Psychosocial

Assessment that

assesses behavior history consistent with FASD and
establishes the NEXUS between the diagnosis and
the criminal behaviors
www.FASDExperts.com

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If There Has Been a Diagnosis…

Get all the records about the diagnosis
If no recent neuropsychological evaluation

Consider updated testing

Find a psychologist who can address the Nexus.

The Important Message:

FASD doesn’t excuse Client’s behavior, it explains
his/her behavior in the context of his brain
damage.

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However…

FASD should be considered as a mitigating factor
Alternatives to incarcerations should be considered






MH or Drug Courts
Court ordered MH/Substance treatment programs
Half way houses
Group homes
Electronic monitoring
DDA involvement
24/7 line of sight monitoring

Resources


NOFAS – www.nofas.org/criminal-justice
American Bar Association – www.americanbar.org (search
FASD)
MOFAS – www.mofas.org
UW FADU Legal Issues Resources http://depts.washington.edu/fadu/resources/fas-and-the-law
Forensic Diagnosis

FASDExperts (team I work with) – www.FASDExperts.com
Dr. Ira Chasnoff (IL)- http://www.childrensresearchtriangle.org/ira-jchasnoff-president/
Dr. George Woods (CA) - marcie@georgewoodsmd.com

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Resources

Referrals to attorneys in your area
Contact Kay Kelly faslaw@hotmail.com at UW’s
Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit
 Contact members of diagnostic teams to get names
of attorneys that they have worked with on prior
cases
 Contact attorneys who themselves are experts on
FASD for recommendations

William Edwards (CA) WEdwards@pubdef.lacounty.gov
 Karen Steele (OR) kasteele@karenasteele.com

Check NOFAS.org resources page for providers in
your state

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