Instructions for Use
Individuals with FAS/FAE should be advised to carry the "Medical Information for Police" card, which they are to give to any police officer with whom they speak. The card explains the disability and alerts the police that the individual is not waiving (and is not capable of waiving) any of his or her rights. The individual with FAS/FAE should have multiple copies of the card, so that a copy can be given (not merely shown) to any police officer whom they encounter. On the back of each card you should write the name of the family member, guardian, attorney or other advocate to be contacted if the police want to question or search the FAS/FAE affected individual.
Reasons to Use the Card
There will, of course, be circumstances in which it would be in the best interest of an individual with FAS/FAE to cooperate with an investigation, or to admit to wrongdoing. But those are decisions which generally speaking even non-disabled individuals should not make without the advice of an attorney. Many individuals with FAS/FAE lack the understanding and knowledge they need to make the legal and practical judgments that are involved.
In addition, the sooner that law enforcement officials understand that an individual has FAS/FAE, the greater the likelihood is that the individual will be treated in a manner appropriate to their disability. Police officers, for example, must make discretionary decisions as to whether to arrest a suspect (e.g. for shoplifting) or to instead call his or her family members. Prosecutors must decide whether to press charges at all, or what crimes to charge a defendant with. Those decisions are more likely to be favorable to the individual if the authorities understand that he or she has FAS/FAE, and if those officials are in communication with a knowledgeable family member or advocate.
If a person with FAS/FAE is actually convicted of an offense, he or she is more likely to receive an appropriate sentence from the judge, or appropriate supervision by probation, parole or corrections officials, if they are aware that the individual has a birth defect.
In addition, family members or other advocates should try to give individuals with FAS/FAE more general guidance about how to deal with the police. This material is not intended as legal advice. For information or advice about specific legal issues or the legal significance of the use of this card, you should contact an attorney.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have prepared a training program for police officers who deal with individuals with FAS/FAE. We would welcome your comments and suggestions about these materials, or about other matters regarding FAS/FAE and the criminal justice system. Please e-mail Howard Davidson
Organizations and individuals who are assisting persons with FAS/FAE are welcome to copy, reuse, place on their own websites, and/or distribute to others the material on these pages. We request that you credit the FAS/FAE Legal Issues Resource Center and our funder, the Robert Wood Johnon Foundation, and inform us of your use by emailing Howard Davidson.