If you are facing criminal charges and also suffering from the effects of a traumatic brain injury, you might be surprised to find out that the two could be related. A traumatic brain injury can impact your ability to make positive and rational decisions. It could lead to you being manipulated by others, without realizing it. It could even cause you to misunderstand your rights when arrested. Many people who suffer from traumatic brain injuries are much more likely to engage in criminal activities than they were before the incident that caused the injury. You are even more likely to respond to a situation with excessive behavior, such as turning a minor irritant into a major source of anger. It becomes more difficult to adequately judge any situation when you have a traumatic brain injury.
As further evidence of the impact of a traumatic brain injury in criminal activity, studies have shown that between 25% and 87% of inmates in any given jail or prison have suffered a traumatic brain injury. The general population shows only 8.5% of such injuries. These numbers are based on multiple studies. The first, from 1998, was a study conducted by Morrell RF, Merbitz CT, & Jain S. on Traumatic brain injury in prisoners. The second such study from 2003 was conducted by Slaughter B, Fann JR, & Ehde D. on Traumatic brain injury in a county jail population: prevalence, neuropsychological functioning and psychiatric disorders. A further 2006 study by Schofield PW, Butler TG, Hollis SJ, Smith NE, and Lee SJ, Kelso WM on Traumatic brain injury among Australian prisoners revealed similar statistics.
Other studies have shown that those with traumatic brain injuries are also more likely to use drugs or alcohol. This may be due to an effort to cope with their symptoms or as an effect of the poor judgment capabilities associated with these injuries.
The consequences of traumatic brain injuries that are seen in the criminal justice system affect men, women, and teenagers. It increases the person’s likelihood of making poor decisions when driving. It results in poor decisions when responding appropriately to anger. It even makes a person more susceptible to feelings of anger and frustration. This is one reason that many people who are convicted of crimes involving abuse, domestic violence, and assault and battery are found to be suffering from the affects of a traumatic brain injury.
Those who suffer from traumatic brain injuries are also easier to mislead into criminal behavior. For instance, someone with a traumatic brain injury might easily be put in a position to take the fall for a crime that was committed by multiple persons. The individuals who put them in that position may never be caught or convicted for their role.
Traumatic Brain Injuries Have Long Term Consequences
It is important to note that the traumatic brain injury does not have to be recent to influence someone’s criminal behavior. Someone could have sustained an injury as a child which damaged their frontal lobe, for example. This could disrupt what would have otherwise been normal brain development. In fact, many children with traumatic brain injuries suffer their entire lives because the brain never develops completely. Many people are aware that the parts of the brain that influence wise judgment and decision making are the last to develop in young adulthood. Imagine if that development never occurred. The person might never be fully capable of making informed and logical decisions about what is right, what is in their best interests, and what actions will carry long term consequences.
The parts of the brain that control a person’s impulses are also among the last to develop. In a child with a traumatic brain injury, they may never do so. In an adult with a traumatic brain injury, these already developed skills could be damaged. The person becomes more likely to act on impulse, instead of with thoughtful consideration of their situation. Adults who have never sustained a traumatic brain injury will typically assess their situation. They will consider their options. They will attempt to make choices that will create the most positive outcome. Those with traumatic brain injuries may do none of this. Rather, they may act on the first impulse or on the guidance of others. When powerful emotions are involved, the likelihood of acting on impulse can be even more devastating to the person’s life and wellbeing.
How Traumatic Brain Injury Can Be Addressed for People In Jail or Prison
Those who suffer from traumatic brain injuries that result in criminal behavior and convictions are also more likely to reoffend when they are released. This is why it’s so important to acknowledge and recognize these issues and address them before the person goes on to make more unhealthy and harmful decisions. The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons advises that prisons use health screenings and evaluations to identify traumatic brain injuries. They also advise that prisons give those inmates the treatment that they need. This might include treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. It might also include treatment to help victims of traumatic brain injuries to become aware of and learn to manage their condition.
Can Traumatic Brain Injury Be a Successful Defense in a Criminal Case?
With all of this information, people who are facing criminal charges in Greenville, South Carolina, may wonder if traumatic brain injury can be used as a criminal defense. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system doesn’t work quite like that. If the person is evaluated and found incompetent to stand trial, then this may be a relevant factor. In many cases, the person is competent to stand trial, despite the presence of a traumatic brain injury. Thus, it may not be a defense on its own. Yet, it could be a relevant factor in reducing charges.
To better understand this, imagine how a healthy teenager faces criminal charges. Their age and level of maturity can be taken into account. The age and maturity can’t be used as a definitive defense for committing the crime. Yet, these factors can certainly be considered when determining the appropriate charge and the appropriate punishment.
Treatment to Prevent Criminal Behavior in Victims of Traumatic Brain Injury
Ideally, when someone suffers a traumatic brain injury, that person will be provided with treatment before the injury leads to criminal behavior. This means that the people in that person’s life must be aware of the injury. They must support the person in seeking treatment and managing the symptoms of the injury. They must help them to avoid harmful situations. It is possible for people with traumatic brain injuries to lead successful and productive lives, if they get the treatment that they need. It is also possible for those who have already been convicted of a crime to receive the treatment that they require to avoid reoffending.
Contact the Law Offices of H. Chase Harbin to Learn More
When you or someone you love has a traumatic brain injury and is facing criminal charges, contact the dedicated criminal defense lawyers in Greenville at the Law Offices of H. Chase Harbin. In this way, you can learn more about how we can help you through this difficult time.
Chase Harbin is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who practices in Pickens and Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 17 years now. Chase Harbin believes in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.