People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)* have the right to justice and fair treatment in all areas of the criminal justice system, and must be afforded the supports and accommodations required to make justice and fair treatment a reality.
When individuals with IDD become involved in the criminal justice system as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, or incarcerated individuals, they face fear, prejudice, and lack of understanding. Attorneys, judges, law enforcement personnel (including school-based security officers), first responders, forensic evaluators, victim advocates, court personnel, correctional personnel, criminal justice policy-makers, and jurors may lack accurate and appropriate knowledge to apply standards of due process in a manner that provides justice for individuals with IDD. These individuals are:
When individuals with IDD or their families come into contact with the criminal justice system, they find few organized resources for information, training, technical assistance, referral, and supports. Moreover, people living with IDD who enter the criminal justice system encounter unique problems not faced by their nondisabled peers, such as:
While the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia** that it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute people with intellectual disability, states continue to play a major role in applying the term and in deciding the process for consideration of a defendant’s intellectual disability. Laws vary from state to state on how a defendant proves the presence of intellectual disability.
States also vary widely regarding whether it is the judge or jury who decides if the defendant has intellectual disability. States sometimes inappropriately appoint people who are not knowledgeable about intellectual disability to conduct “assessments” for intellectual disability or to offer “a diagnosis” that they are not professionally trained or qualified to provide. As a result, defendants may not have their intellectual disability correctly identified because of a state’s unfair and inaccurate procedures. The Supreme Court ruled again in Hall v. Florida*** in 2014, reaffirming the Atkins decision and denying states’ use of strict IQ cutoffs to diagnose intellectual disability.
People with IDD must receive justice in the criminal justice system, whether as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, or incarcerated individuals.
As victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, or incarcerated individuals, they must:
When sentenced, individuals with IDD also must:
Board of Directors, AAIDD
February 19, 2014
Board of Directors, The Arc of the United States
August 6, 2014
Congress of Delegates, The Arc of the United States
October 2, 2014
Intellectual Disability (ID) is a lifelong condition where significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior emerge during the developmental period (before adulthood).
Developmental Disabilities (DD), first defined in 1975 federal legislation now known as “The DD Act,”, are a group of lifelong conditions that emerge during the developmental period and result in some level of functional limitation in learning, language, communication, cognition, behavior, socialization, or mobility. The most common DD conditions are intellectual disability, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, fetal alcohol syndrome, and fragile X syndrome.
The acronym “IDD” is used to describe a group that includes either people with both ID and another DD or a group that includes people with ID or another DD. The supports that people with IDD need to meet their goals vary in intensity from intermittent to pervasive.
**Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). The term “mental retardation” was used in the Atkins decision banning execution of people with intellectual disability (ID) and, though outdated, was still used in some state legal and criminal justice systems until the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hall v. Florida. The outdated term has appeared, therefore, in many legal decisions and briefs, including amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs. The Arc and AAIDD support the modern terminology of ID and urge courts to follow the Supreme Court’s lead in adopting this modern terminology.
***Hall v. Florida, ___ U.S. ___ (2014)
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