We were able to have our client evaluated for autism spectrum disorder. The positive diagnosis helped to explain the offense and convince the prosecutors to dismiss the case.
Our 19-year-old client was arrested on statutory rape charges. He met a 14-year-old girl online who reported him when she later found out that he was older than what was stated on his profile. Their sexual encounter was actually caught on video so there was little he could do to contest the charges.
Our client was using the Spotafriend app to meet people online. This is an app specifically for teens with an age limit of 19 years old.
The client recently went through a bad breakup with his girlfriend, he was depressed, and was very isolated due to it being in the midst of Covid. A 14-year-old girl reached out to him on the app and asked if he wanted to hang out with her that night — he said “sure.”
They drove to a courthouse parking deck where they were listening to music and started to become intimate. They had sex which was captured by the parking garage security cameras. After that night, they remained friends online. At some point, he told her that he was actually 19 and she freaked out saying that she was going to call the police.
We were retained by our client’s parents after his arrest and were immediately able to get him released on bond. We then started gathering records of his extensive history with mental health struggles, ADHD, and behavioral issues since the age of 6. We also spoke with his parents at length and discovered that they long suspected that their son was possibly on the autism spectrum but had never sought out an official diagnosis.
After reviewing our client’s records from previous psychologists, we arranged for him to have an evaluation for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The evaluation confirmed the parents’ suspicions and with the ASD diagnosis, we were able to find the root cause for a lot of his behavioral and compulsive online dating habits which ultimately led to his arrest.
This was not the first time that his parents had been concerned about his online dating activity. In an evaluation conducted when he was 16, his parents stated that “he created a profile for himself on a dating website and became ‘addicted’ to internet relationships and had an overwhelming need and desire to have attention from the girls online.” It was noted that he “does things that feel good regardless of the consequences” such as gossiping and spreading rumors.
The connection between autism and sexual offenses is widely acknowledged in the mental health community. Much of this is attributed to the fact that people with ASD tend to have delayed social maturity compared to their peers. As a result, they often do not have the same sexual outlets throughout their development as other teens, which may delay social and sexual development and leave them “stuck” in adolescence.
This will often lead the teen with ASD to gravitate towards younger people who they find it easier to relate to. Our client had frequently told therapists that he did not “feel his age.”
We were able to then get our client the proper treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating teens with ASD. This proved to be invaluable and finally put the client in a positive direction. For perhaps the first time in his life, the client was demonstrating progress and maturity both socially and emotionally.
With this information, we were able to educate the prosecutors in the District Attorney’s office about our client, his ASD diagnosis, its connection to the offense, and the treatment plan that was put in place to prevent this from ever happening again.
This convinced the prosecutors to agree to dismiss the charges against our client. Our client was able to avoid an indictment on felony sex offense charges that could have resulted in prison time and lifetime sex offender registration. Also, we were able to get the arrest expunged from his record.
Categories | Rape Cases,