Persons diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system than general population controls. Although previous survey evidence has suggested that federal district attorneys are limited in their knowledge of the psycholegal impairments presented by defendants with this condition, such research has yet to have been conducted with state-specific public defenders. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
The Dillman Total Design Method was used to disseminate an electronic survey to public defenders in Minnesota. The survey included questions designed to measure their knowledge bases on and legal experiences with FASD. Surveys were completed by 135 respondents (nMen=63; nWomen=72) with an average of 16.22 years (SD=11.34) of legal experience.
Respondents varied in their knowledge bases on the cognitive impairments, social deficits, and physical complications characteristic of FASD. Less than 20 percent of respondents reported having received training on the psycholegal impairments experienced by individuals diagnosed with FASD from arrest until the start of adjudication, during adjudication, or during incarceration. Over 95 percent of respondents reported that they could benefit from a Continuing Legal Education course on the psycholegal impairments of individuals diagnosed with FASD, and over 90 percent reported that they could benefit from being provided the findings of a screening tool for FASD in their daily practice.
First survey of state public defenders’ perceptions of FASD.
Funding: the research was funded by the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies. This sponsor had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; or in the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.
Brown, J., Cich, J. and Singh, J. (2017), "Perceptions of FASD by Minnesota public defenders", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 165-172. https://doi.org/10.1108/AMHID-12-2016-0041
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