FASD & the Justice System

The bail hearing is often an accused’s first contact with the court system. From start to finish, bail proceedings and conditions pose difficult challenges for a person with FASD, and the risk of compounding the charges against him or her.

“My FAS clients often did not follow through with basics, like showing up for appointments, being on time, going to the right places, or conducting themselves appropriately….My assumption that my clients were not interested or did not care was wrong; they could not structure the pieces of the puzzle together in a logical and meaningful way.” (Boulding, D. 2001).

Difficulty with memory and time, suggestibility and impulsivity may be a recipe for breach of bail conditions. Complying with requirements to remain within a certain area, abstain from communicating with any person, report to police at specified times, abstain from consuming alcohol or drugs, can be extremely difficult for a person with FASD. If an accused is released on a promise to appear or on bail, the longer they are on remand the greater their vulnerabilities.   An accused with FASD will need a reliable surety who understands the accused’s disabilities and is able to provide close and comprehensive supervision. If a breach does occur, a judge may want to consider how the offender’s FASD may be relevant to that breach, and devise more realistic conditions, rather than punishing the person with FASD for the breach.