Introduction: meets the diagnostic criteria for Autism spectrum disorder


The article by Daniel C.
Murrie, Janet I. Warren, Marianne Kristiansson and Park E.Dietz (2002) introduced a case of a 27-year-old male offender who meets the diagnostic
criteria for Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The Offender CD was referred to a
forensic clinican for evaluation subsequently after a sexual crime with a minor
male, based on adult and functioning and the early history CD was diagnosed
with ASD. Moreover do mental health reports from OD´s adulthood show social and non-verbal
communication impairments which are distinctive features of ASD (DSM V 2013).
Furthermore OD described a history of compulsive masturbation as well as sexual
preoccupation, repetitive and
compulsive behavior is also a characteristic in ASD (DSM V 2013). The
hypersexuality of OD lead to moving out of the family’s house into his own
apartment to better act on his sexual urges.

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The first
time he got in contact with the legal system was when he had regular sexual
contact with a minor male. The minor male who did not have a place to stay
lived with OD temporarily. OD had an active relationship with the minor, he
bought presents for the teenage boy and also gave him money, when he stopped
with those actions the teenage boy disappeared from the apartment with the
stereo. When OD showed up at the police station declare the theft he was immediately
arrested because of the sexual engagement with a minor. The fact that he went
to the police and reported the theft and the sexual engagement with a minor
display that the offendant was obviously not aware that his actions are
prohibited and lead to legal consequences. Cases like this one, raise the
question if people with ASD can be held responsible for their criminal actions?
In Dutch courts neuroscientific information is uses to assess if the defendant
can be responsible for the offense, to assess if the defendant is a risk to society,
to find out if the defendant intentionally commited the offense and to find out
if the defendant has the competency to stand trial (Neuroscientific and behavioral genetic information in
criminal cases?in the Netherlands?C.H. de Kogel?† and E.J.M.C. Westgeest‡). A person is considered criminal responsible for their offense
if he or she is conscious of the fact that his or her action is criminal. (Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and
Unlawful Behavior: Where Do We Go from Here? Marc Woodbury-Smith • Kalpana Dein).
The impairments seen in individuals with Autism could be a reason for dimished
criminal responsibility or could be considered as mitigating factors when
sentencing defendants. This emphasizes the need of trained expert assistance in
the courtroom from clinical psychologist which need to be experts in explaining
the disorders. Furthermore, the clinical psychologist need to be able to explain
the defendant’s ability to respond to various scenarios which could arise
because of the impairments seen in individuals with ASD. ASD as explainded in
the DSM V can be a significant aspect to decision making in the courtroom. In the
following literature review I will introduce some criminal justice concepts and
apply them to individuals with ASD.

What is Autism?

ASD is
neurodevelopmental disorder with childhood onset (DSM 5 2013). According to the American Psychiatric Association
are the key diagnostic features for ASD “persisent impairment in reciprocal social
communication” which is criterion A and ” restricted, repetitive patterns of
behavior, interests or activities, which is criterion B. Those features are not
distinct to ASD, they also occur in other psychiatric conditions as well as in
the normal population, hence the important core in diagnosing ASD is clustering
three types of symptoms, impairments in social reciprocity, impairments in
communication as well as restricted and repetitive interest (Ghaziuddin, M. 2005). Wing,
L. (1976) also calles it the
triad of impairment. The behavioral symptoms of ASD are usually recognized in
early childhood, like lack of social interest, unusal social interactions,
delayed language development. The odd and repetitive play become more obvious
at the time of the second year of the life (DSM V 2013).

The prevalence of ASD in children and adults are approximately
1% of the population. Chakrabarti and Fombonne (2001) proposed an increase in
the prevalence of ASD. There is no clear evidence where the increase is coming
from. The prevalences could be higher because of the following reasons, due to broadening
the diagnostic criteria in the DSM5, due to increased awareness or a real
increase of individuals with ASD.