Now Available!
Elizabeth's new book titled Representing People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers was just released by the American Bar Association. Topics include:

  • Co-Occurring Disorders
  • Testing
  • Competency
  • Risk of Violence
  • Mitigation.  
Excerpt from Criminal Responsibility
by Dr. Nancy Kaser-Boyd in Representing People with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers, Elizabeth Kelley, ed.

Criminal charges can result from the specific impairments in autism, which are:
1. Difficulty interpreting social cues and understanding what others are thinking and feeling. Difficulty anticipating and understanding the actions of others and the emotional impact of their actions on others.
2. Poor emotional regulation, with impulsivity, difficulty controlling strong emotions or urges and possible "meltdowns."
3. Difficulty with moral reasoning. Moral reasoning requires a degree of abstract thinking, and individuals with ASD tend to be concrete in their reasoning.
4. Intense restricted interests (i.e., fixations).
5. Repetitive behaviors, compulsivity.

Difficulty interpreting social cues and the actions of others can lead a person with autism to overreact or react inappropriately. In social and sexual relationships, for example, this can result in unwanted sexual aggression, or perhaps in stalking. Difficulty managing emotions may result in an emotional outburst that frightens or even injures others. Fixations, which often have the strength of an obsession, can result in trespassing or stealing. The need to repeat actions and the compulsion to collect may put ASD individuals at risk to repeatedly visit illegal websites or collect pornographic images of children (Attwood, Henault, & Dubin, 2014). However, deliberate violence in individuals with autism is not common. A number of studies have concluded that, when an individual with ASD acts purposely to harm another, there is likely to be comorbid psychiatric illness (e.g., depression or bipolar disorder) or substance abuse. ( See Chap. 4, Co-occurring Disorders).
Artificial Intelligence Therapists May be the Future of Mental Health Care
Many of us have tabletop virtual assistants such as Alexa and Google Home and find them helpful for accomplishing tasks such as playing music and making shopping lists. While these devices act as a basic form of artificial intelligence (AI), AI is evolving and could soon become a part of your life in a more significant way.

Artificial Intelligence

Mental health may be part of the future of AI. AI is based on machine-learning algorithms, and if forward-thinking doctors and investors have their way, it could be a part of mental health therapy. One day your therapist could be a virtual human capable of listening and counseling. Some believe that AI tools will help mental health providers optimize patient care. For instance, if you need psychiatric medication, AI can help find the right one based on your biology and other factors and eliminate the frustrating trial and error that comes with medication.

AI algorithms can also determine whether, for example, someone is likely to attempt suicide. They can use information such as someone's age, gender, responses to questions, and other factors to make this determination. Facebook currently uses AI to flag posts that suggest suicidal ideas or self-harm.

Cost Saving Measures

Currently, mental health treatment is expensive, and caring for patients with precision is the key to cost-effective and helpful care. Current therapy and treatment methods often can't pinpoint the unique needs of every patient. Doing so often requires extensive therapy, which costs money and time that people may not be willing to forgo. With AI therapy, there is the potential to be faster and cheaper, and therefore more effective. These factors can result in more patients seeking treatment.

AI also appeals to cost-conscious health insurers and employers. Currently, a startup company called Lyra Health uses data to diagnose mental health conditions and to match patients up with providers. In addition, many large companies offer their employees the services of Spring Health, which uses predictive models to detect mental states and recommends appropriate treatment. People can also use cell phone-based "chatbots" to deliver cognitive behavioral therapy. The chatbots simulate human conversation through voice and text and have been found to reduce depressive episodes in users. 

Reshaping Mental Health Care

The use of AI in mental health therapy will change the face of mental health care. One out of every five adults in the United States experiences a mental illness. Less than half of those individuals receive treatment. AI would make treatment more accessible, and there is evidence that people may be more likely to rely on AI treatment. Many rural counties that have no access to mental health care could now have various treatment options available through AI. AI-based tools could also help destigmatize mental health care, which, coupled with cost savings, would make more people willing to use the treatment.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental illnesses. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.
Elizabeth Kelley
Criminal Defense Attorney
Elizabeth Kelley is a criminal defense lawyer with a nationwide practice specializing in representing people with mental disabilities. She is the co-chair of The Arc's National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability, serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, Criminal Justice Section Council, and Editorial Board of the Criminal Justice Magazine Learn more .
Further Reading
Elijah McClain’s final words haunt me as the parent of a child who is ‘different’
“I’m just different.”
That’s what 23-year-old Elijah McClain told police in Aurora, Colo., after they stopped him as he walked home from a convenience store last August because someone saw the young black man and reported a suspicious person. Those would be some of McClain’s last words. They haunt me as the parent of a child who is neurodiverse.
Dear Parents: Your Child With Autism Is Perfect
You are the chosen one. Yes, it is your job to guide and support the world’s most dynamic, creative, honest and disciplined creature. Congratulations.

Being the parent of an autistic child means being the parent of everybody’s unacknowledged needs and feelings. It’s no small task. Children with autism embody the sensitivities and passions of your friends, family and co-workers — only amplified. When they stim in a supermarket queue to release pent-up frustration, or they weep uncontrollably at the dinner table because they can’t find the words to express themselves, or they focus on doing what they love for hours on end, they are shamelessly displaying what others are too frightened to.
Amid calls for police reform, better training needed to handle mental health emergencies: Experts
It's a scenario that you've likely heard about from time to time.

Police are sent to respond to a call of a mental health emergency and in some cases, there are tragic results.
Young, Black, autistic and imprisoned: Matthew Rushin's story is sadly not unique
Cumulative injustices are faced by those who are both Black and neurodivergent, as Rushin's treatment attests
Black, Disabled and at Risk: The Overlooked Problem of Police Violence Against Americans with Disabilities
Marcus-David Peters had just left his day job teaching high school biology and arrived at his second job at a hotel, where he worked as a part-time security guard, when he apparently experienced a psychiatric episode.
1A Across America: Unpolicing Mental Illness
Law enforcement officials have become the de facto facilitators of mental health care in America,  according to a survey  of law enforcement officials from last year.
FREE E-Book! Families' Guide to Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

When your family member with a mental disability has been arrested or charged with a crime, it can be a confusing and challenging experience that leaves you unsure of where to turn for answers. Here are some key things families can do to help the defense attorney handling their case.
Representing People with Mental Disabilities: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Best Practices Manual

Elizabeth’s book, Representing People with Mental Disabilities was published by the American Bar Association a little over a year ago. Response to the book has been overwhelming with many attorneys and activists happy to have such a resource.Topics include Competency, Sanity, Neuroimaging, False Confessions, and Prison Conditions.