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Jackie Franks, MPH, CHES, CPS

FASD and Legal Implications 

Facing challenges with the law can be tough, especially for individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD can occur when a fetus is exposed to alcohol prenatally, leading to difficulties in thinking, learning, and behavior. Sometimes, these challenges can create trouble with the law. But there are ways to understand and support those with FASD when they face legal issues. 

David Boulding, an expert in FASD, talks about the struggles people with FASD might encounter in the legal system. He explains that those with FASD might find it hard to understand rules, follow instructions, or remember things. These difficulties can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or mistakes that involve the law. 

The American Bar Association, a group of lawyers and legal experts, suggests that understanding FASD is crucial for everyone in the legal field. They recommend that judges, lawyers, and others involved in the legal system learn about FASD. When people in the legal system understand FASD better, they can provide more support and fair treatment to those with these challenges. 

Individuals with FASD might face various legal troubles, often unintentionally. Sometimes, their difficulties in understanding social cues or rules might lead to accidental trouble. For instance, they might not realize they’re doing something wrong or against the law. This misunderstanding can create problems. 

Recommendations for Legal Professionals 

There are recommendations and ways to help individuals with FASD in legal situations. One suggestion is to have specialized support. Having someone who understands FASD and its challenges can make a big difference. This support person could help explain things, communicate effectively, and ensure fair treatment during legal proceedings. 

Additionally, providing education and training about FASD for people in the legal system is vital. When judges, lawyers, and police officers know more about FASD, they can adapt their approach to better support and assist individuals with these challenges. 

References to FASD in the legal system are crucial too. By mentioning FASD in legal cases, it highlights the importance of understanding these challenges. This reference can help judges and lawyers consider the unique needs of individuals with FASD when making legal decisions. 

Recommendations for Parents and Caregivers  

When a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) encounters legal issues, it can be tough for parents. Here are some tips to help: 

  • Understand FASD and how it affects your child. Learning about FASD can help you explain your child’s challenges to lawyers, judges, and others involved. Next, find a support person who knows about FASD to help your child. This person can explain things clearly and make sure your child gets fair treatment. Also, talk openly with your child about what’s happening. Keeping communication open helps them understand the situation better. 
  • Seek specialized support and guidance. Look for lawyers or advocates who know about FASD. They can help the legal system understand your child’s unique needs. Additionally, focus on teaching your child about rules and consequences. Help them understand right from wrong, and use simple language to explain rules. Lastly, stay patient and supportive. Legal issues can be stressful, but your understanding and encouragement can make a big difference for your child. 
  • Consider having your child carry an identification card stating they have FASD to hand to law enforcement in the event your child has contact with them. We have a printable version located HERE 


Understanding and supporting individuals with FASD in legal matters is about fairness and justice. By learning more about FASD, providing specialized support, educating those in the legal system, and referencing FASD in legal cases, we can create a more understanding and fair environment for everyone. 

References and Learn More 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” by David Boulding and Luther K. Robinson. 

ABA Resolution Supporting Education about FASD for Legal Professionals 

Resources for Parents and Caregivers 

Resources for Professionals 

What is FASD? Check Out Our FASD Resource Directory Drinking & Pregnancy

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