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ADHD Justice Support Center » Crime & Arrest

Crime & Arrest

Due to a variety of factors, some of which were covered on the “Background Factors” page, it has been determined that individuals with ADHD are more likely to engage in criminal activity when exposed to a criminogenic environment. But individuals with ADHD are not only more likely to break the law than someone without ADHD, but they are also more likely to be arrested for an offense. 37% of arrests begin as auto stops, so sometimes that initial contact with law enforcement officials is unavoidable- but once initial contact has been made, problems can arise based on symptomatic ADHD behaviors. 1

In the context of initial contact with a law enforcement official, there are a number of ADHD traits that may increase the likelihood of problematic encounter. These include:

  • Irritability,
  • Inattentiveness,
  • Restlessness,
  • Defiance of authority,
  • Inability to prioritize what’s immediately important

There are also several characteristic ADHD behaviors that may set off red flags, or falsely indicate guilt. For instance, an individual with ADHD may:

  • Often offer elaborate scenarios as explanations- these complicated backstories can come off as unconvincing.
  • Have difficulty keeping their story straight due to sequencing and memory impairments- this can appear suspicious.
  • Commonly have trouble keeping secrets, and provide more information than is necessary- getting themselves into further trouble.
  • Not be good at lying, faces may flush or betray a guilty look almost immediately upon questioning.

Symptomatic behaviors make it more likely for an individual with this disorder to be arrested or charged for committing the same offense as someone without ADHD, or less likely to get off easy with just a warning. For example, if two individuals- one with ADHD and one without- were both driving the same amount above the speed limit in similar areas and pulled over my similar police officers, the individual with ADHD is more likely to have difficulty behaving appropriately, and more likely to get themselves into trouble upon that initial contact. They may have trouble keeping track of instructions issued to them, and appear uncooperative or suspicious. In a scenario when an individual with ADHD has been arrested, they may have difficulty following the Miranda rights and understanding their waiver.

Officers can learn to recognize possible ADHD traits and share this useful information to the psychologist, defense attorney, or probation/parole officer. For example, these insights may be included in their investigation reports.