For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 34

The Client
with

A Modern Challenge for Criminal Defense Attorneys
Carol S. Weinman

A

recent estimate on the prevalence of
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) concludes
that about 1 in 59 children has been
identified with ASD, an increase from the previous
estimate.1 The number of these individuals who
are arrested is also on the upswing. One of the
reasons for a rise in arrests of persons with ASD is
that police officers often deem their behavior to
be reasonable suspicion. It is usually their behavior,
and not their appearance, that catches the eye
of a police officer. There is often nothing about
how people with ASD look that sets them apart
from other people. Rather, it is that they may
communicate, interact, and behave differently
from most other people.2

Arrest of Teen with ASD: A Lesson in
What Can Go Wrong
A recent case in Arizona called national
attention to the wrongful arrest of a 14-year-old

34

For The Defense

l

Vol. 4, Issue 2

boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) whom
police mistook for a drug user.3 The police officer
noticed the boy sitting in a park while twirling
a string as a means of "stimming."4 In a person
with autism, "stimming" usually refers to specific
behaviors that include twirling over and over, handflapping, and random humming.5
To the officer, the boy appeared to be sniffing
an object he had raised to his face and displayed
signs of being under the influence of an inhalant.
According to the Buckeye Police Department, the
officer's response was a reasonable suspicion based
on the officer's training and expertise.6 The training
referred to was in drug recognition. The officer was
unfamiliar with autism.
The arresting officer had asked if the teen had ID
and the boy answered "no" and turned away. The
officer then grabbed the boy's arms and held them
behind his back.7 The boy began screaming-a
predictable behavior in people with autism who



For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2

Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 4
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