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Skip Navigation Links > Competency 6: Legal Issues > 5a. High Risk of Clients with an FASD for Repeat Involvement with the Legal System

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Competency 6: Legal Issues

Legal Issues Related to Individuals with an FASD, Continued

High Risk of Clients with an FASD for Repeat Involvement with the Legal System

People with an FASD may have specific types of brain damage that make them likely to get involved in criminal activity:

  • Lack of impulse control and trouble thinking of future consequences of current behavior
  • Difficulty planning, connecting cause and effect, empathizing, taking responsibility, delaying gratification, and making good judgments
  • Tendency toward explosive episodes
  • Vulnerability to peer pressure (e.g., may commit a crime to please their friends)

People can take advantage of individuals with an FASD. They may talk them into helping commit crimes. Women with an FASD may get involved with destructive men for food, shelter, attention, or drugs.3 Because persons with an FASD have problems learning from experience, they may repeat crimes and cycle through the legal system multiple times.

It is important for the addiction professional to consider the client’s criminal history and any factors that place the client at risk for further criminal involvement. Addressing issues such as peer pressure in treatment can help set the stage for less risky behavior outside treatment. Establishing routines and finding a healthy, structured environment in aftercare can help the client avoid criminal activity.

The addiction professional may encounter an individual with an FASD who is participating in court-ordered treatment. Such individuals may need help navigating the legal system. The addiction professional can consult with the client’s attorney and assist in educating him or her about FASD. In addition, the addiction professional can assist in finding resources to help the client understand any legal proceedings and requirements. The National Legal Aid & Defender Association Exit Disclaimer Graphic  or the American Bar Association Exit Disclaimer Graphic may be able to identify resources at the local level.

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