Berryessa, C. M. (2021). Defendants with autism spectrum disorder in criminal court: A judges’ toolkit. Drexel Law Review.
This article acts as a toolkit for members of the judiciary on defendants with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and specifically looks to equip judges with knowledge, evidence, and resources on recognizing and understanding symptoms of ASD in order to better identify and evaluate diagnosed defendants and their offending behavior. This will allow judges to have impactful and beneficial interactions with defendants, potentially make appropriate procedural and sentencing adjustments before and during the legal process, and better ensure more positive and appropriate legal outcomes for defendants with ASD. First, this article discusses ways in which judges can identify defendants with ASD in court by recognizing and understanding both distinctive characteristics of offending and courtroom behavior that may be exhibited in cases involving defendants with ASD. Recognizing the limited previous research on judges’ understanding of ASD’s legal relevance, this Article additionally provides judges guidance on three aspects of the legal process in which ASD may be forensically significant for defendants: fitness to stand trial, negating criminal elements necessary for criminal liability, and sentencing decisions. Finally, this Article puts forth recommendations for judges in order to improve the legal process for defendants with ASD.