Virginia, criminal charges, and autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability.

During the past General Assembly session, the legislature took on a number of criminal justice reforms. This included a comprehensive review of how persons with mental health diagnosis are treated in the criminal justice system. One of the most welcome reforms was to allow a court to defer and ultimately dismiss a criminal charge if the criminal conduct is a result of a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability.  See Virginia Code 19.2-303.6

In order to have the case dismissed, the defendant must show by clear and convincing evidence that criminal conduct was caused by or had a substantial relationship with the disability. It is important to show that the disability had a direct relationship to the crime.  Prior to this law, the Court had no discretion to dismiss a case even if it was because of a diagnosed intellectual disability. This allows Courts and attorneys to taylor a disposition that takes into account the defendant’s medical issues but still provides for the safety of the community. If the defendant completes the conditions imposed the court can dismiss the criminal charge.

If you or a family member has been charged with a criminal offense that may be the result of an autism diagnosis or intellectual disability call the criminal defense attorneys at Winslow & McCurry.  Call us at (804) 423-1382 or email us at