Intellectual Disability in Missouri Criminal Cases
In Missouri’s criminal cases, it is really important to defend people with intellectual disabilities fairly.
Persons with intellectual disabilities generally have limitations in cognitive function, such as problems with language, social skills, and self-care abilities. Intellectual disabilities can be mild, moderate, or severe, and they often accompany other disabilities.
These individuals may need extra assistance understanding things and dealing with challenges. When defending them in court, it’s important to ensure that they are treated fairly and respectfully.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities sometimes don’t understand the consequences of their actions. Many misunderstand police officers’ questions. That can increase their vulnerability to arrest and incarceration. That is the case even if they didn’t commit the crime.
Upon entering the criminal justice system, they are more likely to be convicted. At the same time, they are less likely to receive probation or parole.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities may act in the following ways:
Try to hide their intellectual disability
May not understand their rights
May say what they think law enforcement officers want to hear
May be confused about who actually committed the crime
Plead guilty even though they may be innocent
As a result, people with intellectual disabilities may experience injustices in the legal system. That’s why it’s essential to retain an experienced attorney in criminal defense in Missouri who can balance being fair with making sure those with disabilities are treated kindly.
Intellectual Disability and Missouri Criminal Law
Article I, Section 18 of the Missouri Constitution establishes a comprehensive bill of rights safeguarding individuals facing criminal prosecutions. This section says that people accused of crimes have the right to defend themselves in court, the right to know what they’re being accused of, and the right to a quick trial with a jury from the same area where the alleged crime happened.
When it comes to protecting the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, Code 552.020 of Missouri criminal law discusses the lack of mental capacity for a trial or conviction. This law acknowledges that individuals who lack the mental capacity to understand legal proceedings are protected. Specifically, individuals fitting this description cannot be tried, convicted, or sentenced for an offense, as long as their incapacity persists.
For example, if a judge has reasonable cause to suspect the mental unfitness of the accused to stand trial, the judge is obligated to appoint one or more private professionals with expertise in intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental illness.
These appointed professionals must possess a minimum of one year of relevant training or experience, and they must not be affiliated with the Department of Mental Health.
The appointed professionals have to examine the accused. A written report of the examination must be filed with the court. Among other findings, the report has to include their opinion on whether the accused:
- Has an intellectual disability
- Lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings
- Will be mentally fit to proceed “in the reasonably foreseeable future”
If the accused is not fit, the criminal proceedings may be suspended. The accused can then be committed to treatment.
Defense Counsel for a Criminal Defendant With Intellectual Disabilities
While Missouri has established robust laws aimed at safeguarding the rights of individuals with intellectual disabilities, the process of defending such individuals can be uniquely complex. Cases involving intellectual disabilities differ significantly from those without, demanding extensive experience and a comprehensive understanding of both the law and the specific challenges faced by those with disabilities.
Having a seasoned attorney by your side becomes paramount in such situations. Our experienced attorneys can level the playing field, offering individuals with intellectual disabilities a fair chance in legal proceedings.
At the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center, we stand apart from other law firms due to our founder’s faculty position and our attorneys’ rigorous training at the esteemed Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College – a premier program for trial lawyer education in the USA. Our team’s training equips us to offer unparalleled support to clients facing complex legal challenges.
Please contact us for assistance if you or a loved one have intellectual disabilities and are involved with the criminal justice system. We offer legal advice and representation to ensure that clients with intellectual disabilities receive the fair and just treatment they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help you.