Mental illness receives a lot of attention in the criminal justice system, and rightly so. However, less known intellectual deficits and developmental disabilities are more prevalent than diagnosed. People with intellectual deficits or developmental disabilities are often preyed upon.

  • Twice as likely to be victims of crimes
  • Crimes against them are underreported
  • Are three times more likely to be victimized between the ages of 12 and 15
  • More than 90% will experience sexual victimization
  • 40% of people with developmental disabilities who are sexual abuse victims will experience
  • ten or more incidents of abuse

Intellectual deficit and developmental disabilities can and should be used as mitigation. Your mitigation specialist should explore all records that may have documented IQ testing or disabilities, including medical and educational records.

As an attorney, you can look for signs of deficits and developmental disabilities such as a limited vocabulary, difficulty comprehending questions, copying or parroting responses, being easily influenced/preyed upon by others, eager to please authority figures, may not understand social cues, could be childlike and interested in childish rewards such as candy, poor impulse control, easily diverted from tasks, poor motor skills and coordination, difficulty making and maintaining eye contact, and exhibiting inappropriate facial expressions.

It’s important to note that intellectual deficits and developmental disabilities are not mental health issues. While people with mental illness show changes in thought processes, moods, and emotions, people with intellectual deficits and developmental disabilities have a below-average ability to learn and process information. Generally, these deficits and disabilities are known during childhood when the person operates below intellectual functioning, which is lifelong and does not change. However, people with a mental illness and ID or DD are referred to as dual diagnoses.

Mitigation can significantly change the course of your client’s case. Ideally, mitigation should be front-loaded at the beginning of a case. However, you can also use mitigation strategies to negotiate a better outcome at sentencing. No matter when you decide to use mitigation, it can be a persuasive argument to decrease or even eliminate prison time.

To learn more, see this guide by the New Jersey Criminal Justice Advocacy Program:

For more information on using intellectual deficit and developmental disability as mitigating factors in your case, call the Downward Departure Specialists at 916-224-4680. We are experts and here to help.