Specialized Court in Las Vegas Helps Autistic Youth
After noticing a growing number of young people with symptoms of autism in the criminal justice system, Clark County Juvenile Court Hearing Master Soonhee “Sunny” Bailey and Family Court Judge William Voy launched a new court. The Detention Alternatives for Autistic Youth Court, or DAAY Court, was launched in 2018. DAAY Court is a specialized court geared toward helping troubled young people on the autism spectrum. Bailey recognized the symptoms of autism in some of the youth she encountered and knew that many of them were not receiving the treatment they required.

Most of the kids who come before the DAAY Court have had no therapy at all for their condition. The arrests that bring them to court are frequently a side effect of being on the autism spectrum. The goal of the DAAY Court is to get these kids and teenagers the help they need now before they become adults. When a juvenile defendant is identified as possibly autistic, the family is connected with community service workers in court. Defendants check in with the court on a regular basis.

Autism and the Criminal Justice System

Courts like the DAAY Court are important because too often young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) become involved with the criminal justice system. Much of this involvement stems from a lack of treatment for ASD and a misunderstanding by law enforcement and the court system about the symptoms of ASD and what it means for an individual’s behavior. Perceived antisocial behavior, an inability to pick up on social cues and issues with verbal and nonverbal communication can all lead someone with ASD into the criminal justice system. A court with a judge who understands the unique challenges faced by someone with ASD is important to ensure that justice is truly achieved. Punishing someone for demonstrating the symptoms of ASD will not help the matter. Assisting someone with ASD in getting treatment can go a long way toward preventing this person from appearing in court again.

If you or a loved one has an intellectual/developmental 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 disabilities. 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, has served three terms on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and serves on the Editorial Board of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section Magazine.  Learn more .
2019 Agenda
Books & Videos
World's First Theme Park Designated As A Certified Autism Center
In addition to creating a sensory guide ranking each ride and establishing quiet rooms, staff members have undergone extensive training to help meet the needs of children on the spectrum.
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

Edited by Elizabeth Kelley, this book is available for purchase from The American Bar Association. It contains chapters devoted to a variety of issues confronted by people with mental disabilities in the criminal justice system such as Competency, Sanity, Malingering, Neuroscience, Jail and Prison Conditions, Working with Experts,and Risk Assessment. Chapters are written by academics, mental health experts, and criminal defense lawyers. In the Introduction, Elizabeth writes that "This is the resource I wish I had had many years ago."