Autism and Special Needs in the Texas Criminal Justice System

Autism Defense Attorneys | Special Needs Criminal Defense Lawyers

In Texas, adults and children with autism spectrum disorders, including what was formerly known as Asperger’s, and other special needs disabilities, can be at great risk for arrest and involvement with the Texas criminal justice system. Most often, teachers and police officers lack education and training to understand autism and other special needs. A witness or police officer might see certain behavior as intentionally aggressive or dangerous when it may actually be something that the individual cannot control.

Once someone initiates a police report, the Texas criminal prosecution system is put into motion and parents have little control. Police agencies forward case files to the District or County attorney who makes the decision whether to charge an individual with an offense.  We have seen it many times in Texas;  autistic individuals charged with a crime for behavior that was not criminal at all, but merely misunderstood. The District Attorney may still proceed with the charges, even when the victim (who is often a parent or family member) does not want to press charges.

Best Fort Worth Criminal Lawyer

Barnett Howard & Williams fought for my son! He has autism and was charged with assault for conduct that was not his fault. A bully was picking on him due to his disability and my son finally fought back. These attorneys were kind to my son. They really cared for him and our family. They were able to get his case dismissed! I can't thank them enough!

K.G. - Mother of Autistic Client

Texas Criminal Defense Attorneys with First-Hand Knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorders

One of our attorneys is blessed with a child that has autism.  As a result, our criminal defense firm has special, first-hand knowledge of how autism and other special needs disabilities can impact a young person.  Further, we have had the opportunity to represent several individuals with autism that have been charged with assault offenses, sexual offenses, and more.  We have a high success rate across the State of Texas in achieving dismissals on cases involving special needs defendants.

The consequences of a criminal charge or conviction can have a significant impact on a person’s future, in both the juvenile and adult criminal justice process.  It is important to have an experienced attorney who understands both the Texas criminal justice system and how disabilities affect an individual’s behavior. In Texas, there are many options available to resolve a criminal case, including diversion programs. Our attorneys will work with your child to understand their disability and aggressively defend their rights against prosecutors and judges.

School Consequences for Special Needs Students

If your special needs child has an incident at school that they administration deems dangerous or aggressive, or if they allege that your student has violated the student code of conduct, the administration might seek to remove your child to an aternative education campus. There are state and federal rules that govern this process and the school must adhere to these rules. For instance, if the school seeks to remove your child to another educational setting for greater than 10 days, then the school must hold a Manifestation Review Determination (MDR) to decide whether they believe that the underlying conduct (maladaptive behavior) was indeed a manifestation of your child’s disability. If the conduct was a manifestation of the disability, then they cannot remove the child from regular programming. The school might also seek to modify the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or the Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). In matters where the underlying conduct could also have juvenile criminal implications, the parents should reach out to an attorney with experience in both Education Discipline Law and Juvenile Criminal Defense Law.

Free Consultation with a Special Needs Criminal Defense Attorney

If your child has autism, Asperger’s, or another special needs disability, and they have been charged with a crime, named the subject of a criminal investigation, or have been removed from school pending a disciplinary hearing, contact our Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys for a Free Consultation at (817) 993-9249.  We have offices in Fort Worth, Keller, and Grapevine, but regularly represent criminal defense clients across the entire State of Texas.


930 W. 1st St., Suite 202
Fort Worth, TX 76102


101 Quest Court
Keller, Texas 76248


4831 Merlot Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051