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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Criminal responsibility in Asperger's syndrome

Nachum Katz, Zvi Zemishlany
Israel Journal of Psychiatry and related Sciences 2006, 43 (3): 166-73
17294982

BACKGROUND: Asperger's syndrome (AS) has been of much interest in the last two decades. Most people with AS are law abiding and are not involved in any violence. Over the years, however, there is increasing evidence of violent behavior and criminal acts committed by some people with AS. The characteristics of the link between AS and violation of the law requires identification and definition and the question regarding the criminal responsibility to be attributed to these offenders needs to be clarified.

DATA: We present three cases that illustrate how the special characteristics of this syndrome and particularly the inability to assess social situations and appreciate others' point of view constitute the main cause for the violent behavior and the criminal offences. For this specific behavior, the AS patients lack the criminal intent or the intent to cause harm (mens rea), which is essential for criminal responsibility. Thus it is reasonable to consider some AS sufferers not criminally responsible for their actions and unfit to stand trial. This approach has been accepted by the courts.

CONCLUSION: It can be inferred that people with AS may not be criminally responsible despite not suffering from a psychotic illness.

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