Essay Example: Intellectual Disability in Criminal Court Cases

Published: 2019-06-06
Essay Example: Intellectual Disability in Criminal Court Cases
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Court system Mental health
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1156 words
10 min read

Persons with Intellectual Disability often face a lot of challenges in their day-to-day lives. There has always existed a link between crime and developmental disabilities as well as in the development of policies and laws. There is a notion that people with Intellectual disabilities and those with developmental disabilities are susceptible to crimes. This idea is what generated debate among the lawmakers as well as policy makers such that special housing units were built to protect and train those with intellectual disabilities. Researchers noted that the people with Intellectual Identity bore characteristics that subject them to committing crimes. Olley in his book Definition of Intellectual Disability in Criminal Court Cases, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities tried to look at the components that are adaptive to the people with Intellectual Disability such vulnerability, naivety as well as gullibility. These characteristics show that people with ID are vulnerable to these entities that may be problematic for them.

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Olleys book sought to review the implications the case of Atkins v. Virginia on the person with ID and how the effect the verdict had on identifying people with ID. Olley reviewed the evidence on the case and the effects it had in identifying the people with ID in the Criminal Justice System. He also sought to examine the strategies the law enforcers and how the tactics they use can affect the people with ID (Olley, 2013). Olley was able to integrate other literature by other researchers on the effects of adaptive characteristics on people with ID and the Criminal Justice System.

Intellectual Disability Definition

The only bodies who have the authority to tell is a person suffers from intellectual disability is the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) as well the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (APA). According to these bodies a person with ID has deficits in intellectual capacities (AAIDD, 2013). The Intelligent Quotient (IQ) of a person with ID is below 70 or a high of 75. The intellectual capacity is determined by looking at the daily social activities and the practical skills a person has. The disability is known to start before a person reaches the age of 18 in that such a person is not able to learn and reason as well as solve problems.

The lower the IQ goes down, the higher the intellectual disability. According to Perske (2000) the law enforcers are expected to make the suspects aware of their Miranda rights to all suspects before they are taken in for interrogation. That is the suspect must be told that he or she has the right to remain silent and that anything said can be used against them in a court of law, and that he or she has the right to a lawyer (appointed or hired by the individual). A person who has passed the seventh grade can read and listen as well as understand the rights and warnings of the Miranda rights. The intellectual capacity of a person can affect their ability to read, listen and understand the Miranda rights. For example it is important for law enforcers to know the IQ of a person so that they can ascertain that the person is fit to be recited the Miranda rights Olley, 2013).

Intellectual Disability in Criminal Court Cases: Atkins v. Virginia case

The two entities, AAIDD, and APA indicate that a person with ID coexists with adaptive functioning before they turn the age of 18. A person with ID ought to have limitations in practical, social as well as conceptual. Conceptual abilities are the effects the intellectual capability of a person has on their communication, education as well as self-direction. Social capabilities are the abilities that affect the interpersonal skills, a persons ability to follow guidelines and self-confidence. Practical skills, on the other hand, refer to the skill a person uses daily, that is health and hygiene (AAIDD, 2013). There are characteristics that make a person susceptible in the Criminal Justice System. Such include gullibility and naivety. With gullibility, a person can engage in activities without considering the consequences simply because they are not able to comprehend or even tell the motives of others. A person who is gullible will often have trouble in the justice systems as they try to hide their lack of understanding by going along with what the police ask of them. In such cases, a person with ID can end up admitting to a crime they did not commit.

Other people will often take advantage of such people by involving them in criminal acts. This is because often the person will not understand the consequences of their actions. Such a person, when arrested, may want to please others by not admitting that they were coerced to commit the crime. In the case of Atkins v. Virginia, Daryl Atkins and his counterpart William Jones armed with a handgun kidnapped Nesbitt. They robbed him of his money, drove off to an ATM and withdrew cash from Nesbits account. They then drove Nesbit to a remote place and shot him. According to the U.S Supreme Court, persons with an IQ of below six could not be executed. Atkinss testimony of what has transpired has many inconsistencies. When a testimony of a cellmate indicated that Atkins had confessed to the crime led to his death sentence as he was found guilty of the crime. Atkinss in his defense said that it was Jones who masterminded the crime.

The debate among the people nationally was whether Atkins was vulnerable socially. The case had indicated that Atkins had an IQ of 59. Evidence from his family members as well as his peers showed that Atkins had characteristics of a person with Intellectual disability. This claim was supported by a psychologist who examined Atkins. The first trial disregarded the claims, but his defense attorney was able to have his life spared. The effect of the ruling was people had the thought that the state desired to redefine ID. In other cases, prisoners have been seen to pretend to have ID so that they are exonerated. This malingering to evade prosecution has led to an increase in the frequency of assessments of IDs in prisons.


To conclude, it is important for law enforcers to be educated and trained on ways of ascertaining if a person has ID or not. The criteria for using adaptive behavior as opposed to measuring a persons IQ should take center stage when ascertaining whether a person has ID. With heightened awareness about the effects of ID on a persons ability the law enforcers can level the playing ground for those with ID in the Criminal Justice System.


American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (2013). Definition of Intellectual Disability. Retrieved from:

Olley, J. G. (2013). Definition of Intellectual Disability in Criminal Court Cases, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 51(2), pp. 117121.

Perske, R. (2000). Deception in the interrogation room: Sometimes tragic for persons with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. Mental Retardation, 36, 532537.

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