February 2007

Grant Results

National Program

Substance Abuse Policy Research Program

SUMMARY

Eric Schnapper, L.L.B., and a team of researchers at the University of Washington School of Law established the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Legal Issues Resource Center.

The center analyzes legal issues related to fetal alcohol exposure and disseminates information to people with fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects and others.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) (for more information see Grant Results).

Key Results

  • Identified and prepared written analyses of approximately 150 federal and state judicial opinions in which the existence of fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects played a significant role. These are available online.
  • Established a Web site that includes summaries of court cases related to fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects, articles, a directory of physicians who diagnose problems related to fetal alcohol exposure, and links to support groups and other community resources.
  • Created a "Medical Information for Police" card for people with fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects.
  • Trained police officers regarding Fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects.
  • Provided assistance to legal officials in criminal cases.

Funding
RWJF provided a grant of $99,770 from January 2003 through February 2004.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

More than 1 million people in the United States suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAS/FAE) and 60,000 babies are born each year with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome alone, according to researchers at the University of Washington School of Law.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects are birth defects, particularly organic brain damage, that can result if a mother uses alcohol during pregnancy. There is no medical cure or treatment for the brain damage caused by alcohol. More than half of all adolescents and adults with these Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Effects get in trouble with the law at some point in their lives.

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THE PROJECT

With support from RWJF under its Substance Abuse Policy Research Program, Schnapper and a team of researchers at the University of Washington created the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Legal Issues Resource Center to:

  1. Analyze legal issues related to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects.
  2. Identify changes in legal policies and practices necessary to respond appropriately to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects.
  3. Disseminate information to people with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects, their parents, advocates, lawyers and judges.

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RESULTS

The project accomplished the following:

  • Established a Web site on which to post all the center's activities, disseminate information and offer policy recommendations. The Web site also includes a directory that lists by state and territory: doctors and others who diagnose Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects; community resources and family support groups; and prevention programs, including medical treatment for women.
  • Identified about 150 federal and state judicial opinions in which the existence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects played a significant role. Staff prepared written analyses of the legal and/or scientific issues raised by each of these opinions. These were posted on the Web site.
  • Created a "Medical Information for Police" card that people with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects can carry with them and give to the police. The card states that the person has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects, is unlikely to understand concepts such as legal rights, and asks the police officer to contact a responsible person whose name is included on the card before proceeding with questions (see the Appendix).
  • With the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, developed a police training curriculum related to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects. The police chief in Canada who participated in developing the curriculum agreed to provide training to police officers in the United States.
  • Provided assistance to lawyers, judges and probation officials in criminal cases involving defendants with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects, including arranging for use of a method of diagnosing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects through an MRI. These cases raised several policy and practical issues such as:
    • When should courts order tests to determine whether a person suffers from this defect?
    • How might the existence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects affect sentences for minor, serious and capital offenses?
    • What types of probation conditions would reduce the chances that a probationer with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects would commit subsequent crimes?
  • Wrote summaries of the Social Security disability programs for which individuals with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects might be eligible. The information includes eligibility standards and application processes, how to apply for benefits online, and names of attorneys who specialize in Social Security disability cases. It is posted in full on the Web site.

Communications

Project staff created a Web site titled Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Legal Issues Resource Center. See the Bibliography for details.

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AFTER THE GRANT

The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Legal Issues Resource Center committed to train Washington state judges, Washington state police officers, and King County public defender attorneys regarding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects and the law.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the Law: Policy Choices and Implementation

Grantee

University of Washington School of Law (Seattle,  WA)

  • Amount: $ 99,770
    Dates: January 2003 to February 2004
    ID#:  047686

Contact

Eric Schnapper, L.L.B.
(206) 616-3167
schnapp@u.washington.edu

Web Site

http://www.saprp.org
http://www.saprp.org/grant_publications.cfm?appId=717
http://www.depts.washington.edu/fadu/legalissues

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APPENDICES


Appendix 1

''Medical Information for Police'' Card

I have the birth defect Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects, which causes brain damage. If I need assistance, or if you need my cooperation, you should contact the person listed on the back of this card. Because of this birth defect, I do not understand abstract concepts like legal rights. I could be persuaded to admit to acts that I did not actually commit. I am unable to knowingly waive any of my constitutional rights, including my Miranda rights. Because of my disability, I do not wish to talk with law enforcement officials except in the presence of and after consulting with an attorney. I do not consent to any search of my person or property.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

World Wide Web Sites

www.depts.washington.edu/fadu/legalissues. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Legal Issues Resource Center. This Web site provides information about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects, legal issues and court cases related to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects, information about Social Security benefits available to people with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects, and information by state and territory about doctors and others who diagnose Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects, as well as listings of community resources and family support groups, and prevention programs, including medical treatment for women.

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Report prepared by: Barbara Matacera Barr
Reviewed by: Mary Nakashian
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Victor A. Capoccia
Program Officer: Michelle A. Larkin

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