Raising an Autism or Intellectual Disorder Defense in a Virginia Criminal Case

Virginia recently passed a new law providing a powerful defense for certain people charged with serious crimes. Under Virginia Code 19.2-303.6, a person who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or another intellectual disability can petition the court defer their case, put them on probation, and eventually dismiss their charges if the person shows they are eligible and that the alleged crime was “caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the person’s disorder or disability.”

Who qualifies for this new defense under Virginia law?

Under Code Section 19.2-303.6, only people charged with certain offenses can petition the court for a deferred disposition. A person must show that they have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist, or an “intellectual disability.” Virginia law defines an “intellectual disability” as “a disability, originating before the age of 18 years, characterized concurrently by (i) significant subaverage intellectual functioning as demonstrated by performance on a standardized measure of intellectual functioning, administered in conformity with accepted professional practice, that is at least two standard deviations below the mean and (ii) significant limitations in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills.”

Some people are ineligible for deferred disposition based on the crime they are charged with. Defendants charged with aggravated murder or an “act of violence,” such as kidnapping, assault, robbery, sexual assault, or arson. A person is not ineligible for this defense simply because they have a prior conviction.

The court can defer a defendant’s case if the defendant has pleaded guilty or if they have pleaded not guilty, but there facts what “would justify a finding of guilt.” The court must then find by “clear and convincing evidence” that the offense was caused by or was related to the defendant’s autism or intellectual disability. If the defendant’s case is deferred, they usually have to complete a term of probation that includes several conditions such as no internet use, no being around minors, and other restrictions.

If a person successfully completes the terms of their deferred disposition and probation, the court may enter an order dismissing the charges against him. If the defendant violates the terms of his deferred disposition, the court can revoke his probation, enter a conviction, and impose a sentence.

Can a criminal defense lawyer help?

Yes, our criminal defense lawyers in Virginia can help someone who is charged with a serious crime in Virginia that may related to an autism condition or intellectual disorder under the law. We have helped dozens of people successfully resolve serious criminal cases in federal and state courts throughout the Commonwealth. Page Pate, Jess Johnson, and Cary Citronberg are licensed Virginia criminal defense lawyers and have decades of experience in serious criminal cases. Contact us in Alexandria VA or Washington DC.


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