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Why Online Stings are Prejudiced Against the Intellectually Disabled

Why Online Stings are Prejudiced Against the Intellectually Disabled

Published: Apr 14, 2020 in Sex Crimes Involving Children

Law enforcement frequently uses online stings to make sex crime arrests, like distributing child pornography or soliciting a minor for sex. But online sex stings are fraught with potential legal issues, including when officers don’t consider the person online might be intellectually disabled.

People’s psychological, intellectual, emotional, and social capabilities range significantly.The American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities defines an individual with an intellectual disability as someone with an IQ below 75, significant limitations on two or more adaptive skills, and whose condition arose before they turned 18.

Common intellectual disabilities include Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, phenylketonuria, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. There also are other developmental disorders, like autism, that can impact a person’s understanding of the world, particularly right vs. wrong.

An intellectual or developmental disability doesn’t mean a person can’t be guilty of a sex offense. But it often means they didn’t intentionally or malicious commit a crime. For example, autistic people charged with sex crimes might not know what they did was wrong or why. It’s because of these concerns that a defendant with an intellectual or developmental disorder should have a highly experienced and knowledgeable sex crimes lawyer as soon as possible.

If your loved one is intellectually disabled and charged with a sex crime in Texas, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 for a free consultation.

A Growing Number of Offenders Have Intellectual Disabilities

Tragically, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are among the most vulnerable. Conversely, those with disabilities are also a growing population in the prison system. About 2-3 %of the general population has intellectual disabilities, according to The Arc. But people with intellectual disabilities represent between 4 and 10 % of prison populations—and that figure tends to be higher in juvenile facilities.

The issue isn’t that people who are intellectually disabled are more likely to commit crimes. Instead, it’s likely that individuals haven’t received the education and behavioral therapy necessary to avoid inappropriate, harmful, and criminal conduct.

When Prosecutors Charge the Intellectually Disabled with Sex Crimes

When a prosecutor charges a person with an intellectual or developmental disability with a sex offense from an online sting, their lawyer should consider several factors.

The defendant might:

  • Have received little-to-no sexual education
  • Not understand that their behavior is unhealthy, inappropriate, or hurtful to others
  • Not realize what constitutes socially appropriate behavior
  • Lack social skills
  • Be unable to recognize social cues
  • Lack typical peer relationships that form a basis for proper conduct
  • Impulsively seek out sensation or stimulation
  • Not understand their behavior is illegal
  • Not have been taught or given opportunities to express their sexuality appropriately
  • Have experienced repression and control of their sexuality
  • Not understand the alleged victim was an inappropriate age for the activity
  • Have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse
  • Have been groomed to participate in inappropriate or illegal behavior

Attorney Barnett can use these factors in a person’s defense. They might not lead to an acquittal, but they can be essential in pursuing a fair penalty that considers the defendant’s needs, such as sex education and behavioral therapy.

Recognizing Age and Appropriate Sexual Conduct Is an Issue

A common issue with individuals who are intellectually disabled is performing appropriate or acceptable sexual behaviors but with someone too young. This is known as age discordance sex play, according to The Arc.

Sex play is a normal part of child development and encompasses behavior and play focused on body parts and gender. It typically happens with children of similar ages, sizes, and abilities and with friends, relatives, and neighbors—not strangers, according to the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth.

Age discordance, on the other hand, occurs between people of differing ages, like an adult with an intellectual disability and a child. This issue might become more pronounced online when even a person without an intellectual or development disability might have trouble determining if a photo or video includes a minor or someone over 18 years old. It also means someone with an intellectual disability might attempt to make friends with or form a romantic partnership with someone they don’t realize is an inappropriate age.

Contact an Experienced Sex Crime Lawyer Today

Online stings don’t take any of these factors into account when arrests are made. Officers look for purely objective behavior, such as downloading pornography depicting a minor or talking with an underage person online. There’s no room to consider that the person on the other side of the computer isn’t aware that what they’re doing is wrong. Because of this, defendants who are intellectual disabled must have a strong defense team.

Please don’t hesitate to call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 for help.