A man was recently arrested after he allegedly stole DVDs in New Jersey. However, the man had a developmental disability and the cognitive abilities of a 9-year-old. According to a report, there isn't a dispute that the man stole the items, but he was hand-cuffed, and sent to a county jail without a phone call to his legal guardians.
These are dilemmas that many families with disabled adult children might go through. It sometimes might not be clear whether a person understands their rights when they are arrested. In this case the man was charged initially with robbery-by-force, and the police stand by the arrest. However, the charges were downgraded to simple assault and shoplifting.
While situations such as these are unfortunate, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help families who might have difficulty because of a lack of understanding by law enforcement. A mental health director in New Jersey said that jails are often large "housers of the mentally ill."
This raises a lot of questions about those who might be convicted of crimes and whether they know what they did and know that it was wrong. Police might have to respond to certain situations, but might not be trained in handling situations where a person accused of a crime has a disability.
An attorney can help a person form a rigorous defense and hopefully get charges dropped or at the very least reduced. Police and lawmakers might need to work together to come up with solutions to situations such as this one.
Source: NorthJersey.com, "Arrest of disabled New Milford man sheds light on police dilemma," Rebecca D. O'Brien, Sept. 25, 2013