In middle-aged and older people, actions that are not normal for that person may be the first sign of dementia. In some cases, this can include criminal behavior. Someone who would normally be a law-abiding citizen may find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Studies have shown that there can be a connection between dementia and criminal behavior.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a term used to describe drastic changes in the brain that cause memory loss. In most cases, these changes make it difficult for people to perform basic daily activities. Dementia causes changes in behavior and personality. Dementia affects language, memory, and decision making. There are ten different types of dementia, and most cases are caused by a disease and cannot be reversed.
Dementia and Criminal Behavior
Given the changes in behavior and problems with decision making, it is not unusual for someone with dementia to engage in criminal behavior. The prevalence of criminal behavior depends on the type of dementia a person has. A study out of Sweden found that 42% of patients with frontotemporal dementia demonstrated instances of criminal behavior, including theft, traffic violations, threats, pyromania, vandalism, and stalking. Only 14.9% of individuals with Alzheimer's disease demonstrated this behavior. Frontotemporal dementia affects the front and sides of the brain, which are the areas that control behavior.
In fact, it is considered an early sign of dementia when an individual suddenly engages in criminal behavior. New-onset criminal behavior can be a serious symptom of the disease. An individual may suddenly exhibit verbal or physical aggression. They may also make unwanted sexual advances. People with dementia, as a result of their disease, have no control over their behavior.
Individuals who commit crimes because of their dementia should not be held criminally responsible for their behavior. Instead, they should receive treatment and help for their condition. It may be necessary for these individuals to receive care in a secure memory care facility or to have in-home care that can protect them from their own behavior. However, the criminal justice system is not the answer for someone with dementia engaging in criminal behavior.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.