Tourette's syndrome and the law.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

Diminished legal responsibility and mental capacity have been used in defense of individuals with neurological disorders charged with legal misdemeanors, including criminal behavior. The purpose of this report is to 1) critically examine the mechanisms that may predispose patients with Tourette's syndrome (TS) to potentially, legally liable behaviors; 2) report the results of a nation-wide review of state, federal, and appellate cases involving TS; and 3) instigate awareness within the professional legal community regarding unrecognized organically-based behaviors that may predispose TS patients to unwanted legal disciplinary action. TS is a common neurological movement disorder of childhood onset associated with behavioral comorbidities, including impulse control problems, exhibition of obscene language or gestures, rage attacks, inappropriate obsessions, and other behaviors. To our knowledge, there are no studies (to date) addressing the potential impact of TS on the legal system. A comprehensive review of the neurobehavioral mechanisms underlying comorbid issues in TS is outlined. A comprehensive review of all cases tried in state and federal courts between 1985 and 2003, in which TS was somehow implicated, was conducted using the Westlaw database. As of October, 2003, TS was implicated in more than 150 cases found in the federal and state databases, 21 of which were criminal. Other cases are categorized as civil rights, criminal, education, family, labor, and social security cases. The authors conclude that TS rarely leads to criminal behavior, but patients with TS who have behavioral comorbidities are at risk of being involved with the legal system. The medical-legal community must learn to recognize the vulnerability of this patient population to potential mistreatment by the courts of justice.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Jankovic, J; Kwak, C; Frankoff, R

Published Date

  • 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 18 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 86 - 95

PubMed ID

  • 16525075

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0895-0172

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1176/jnp.18.1.86


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States