Guidance for Individuals with FAS/FAE Regarding Dealing with the Police

The type of guidance that should be given to a particular individual with FAS/FAE depends on the severity of his or her disability, as well as on his or her age and general level of functioning

Carry the Card

All individuals with FAS/FAE should be advised to carry the "Medical Information for Police" cards, and to hand one to any law enforcement official with whom they speak. The most effective way of assuring that the individual with FAS/FAE will do so will vary. In some instances it may be sufficient to repeatedly remind him or her of what to do. Daily inquiries about whether he or she has the cards may be helpful. For other individuals one time or repeated role-playing may be most effective.

Hand Card to the Police

It would not be appropriate to tell all individuals with FAS/FAE that they should never talk to the police. In some situations they need, and should ask for, assistance from the police. On the other hand, in situations in which they may be suspected of a crime, individuals with FAS/FAE should not talk with the police other than to give their names, but instead should calmly request that the police reach the appropriate family member, advocate, or other contact person.

Some individuals with FAS/FAE may not be able to understand the distinction between these two types of situations, or may be unable in practice to evaluate why a police officer is talking to them. If a particular individual is able to understand and act on this distinction, an effort should be made to explain it.

For individuals who cannot draw such a distinction, the parent or other advocate may have to decide whether on balance that particular individual should be advised simply not to talk to the police. That judgment should turn in part on whether, given the individual and local police practice, encounters with the police are more likely to be investigatory or friendly.

It is also important that individuals with FAS/FAE understand that the decision not to respond to police questioning has nothing to do with whether or not they are guilty, or whether or not they need to explain what they have been doing. It is simply to delay the police questioning until a family member or lawyer can be there with them when they are questioned.

It is important that an individual with FAS/FAE be warned not to panic or overreact in a seemingly frightening encounter with the police. The need for such guidance may depend on the temperament of the individual and on the circumstances in which they are likely to encounter the police.

There are a number of things that individuals should not do when approached by the police: Do not run away, hit the police, resist arrest, or threaten the police.

No Searches

Individuals with FAS/FAE should be advised not to consent to searches of their persons, possessions or homes. Let that decision be made when the family member, advocate, or attorney is present.

Diagnosis First

The determination of whether an individual has FAS or FAE is a difficult one, and should be made by an experienced medical professional. A reliable diagnosis should be obtained before utilizing the " Medical Information for Police " card. The name of the treating or diagnosing physician should be written on the back of the "Medical Information for Police" card.