Can Traumatic Brain Injury be a Factor in Violent Crime?
A traumatic brain injury can be life-changing for sufferers in a number of different ways. It can change the way they function and behave, and it can even change their personality. But can traumatic brain injury lead someone to commit a violent crime? Some studies show this may be the case.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) typically results from a violent jolt or blow to the head. An object, like a bullet, penetrating the skull and brain tissue can also result in a TBI. A mild TBI may affect a person's brain cells temporarily. A more serious TBI can result in torn tissue, bruising, bleeding, and other physical damage to the brain. A serious TBI can result in long-term complications. An estimated 1.7 million people annually sustain a TBI.

Linked to Crime?

The link between TBI and violent crime is a controversial subject that we are still struggling to understand. A number of studies have found a link between TBI and violence. A 2009 study found an increase in aggression among people who suffered a TBI. This aggression was believed to be linked to a change in psychosocial functioning and changes in personality. Another study found that young people who suffered a recent head injury were more likely to report violent behavior.

Aggressive behavior associated with TBI includes explosive outbursts that can be set off with minimal provocation. These outbursts can range in severity for irritability to property damage or assaults on others. Cognitive and behavioral problems associated with TBI can result in aggressive behavior that leads to violence. In addition, a lack of insight and judgment can also lead to behavior in which the person would never have engaged if they did not suffer from a TBI. In fact, these same conditions can also make those with TBIs more likely to be victims of violent crime which can perpetuate the cycle. Violence as both a cause and consequence of TBI is a serious problem that must be addressed.

If you or a loved one has a mental illness or intellectual/developmental 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.
Elizabeth Kelley
Criminal Defense Attorney
Elizabeth Kelley is a criminal defense lawyer with a nationwide practice specializing in representing people with mental disabilities. She is the co-chair of The Arc's National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability, has served three terms on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and serves on the Editorial Board of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section Magazine.  Learn more .
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Books & Videos
FREE E-Book! Families' Guide to Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

When your family member with a mental disability has been arrested or charged with a crime, it can be a confusing and challenging experience that leaves you unsure of where to turn for answers. Here are some key things families can do to help the defense attorney handling their case.
Representing People with Mental Disabilities: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Best Practices Manual

Edited by Elizabeth Kelley, this book is available for purchase from The American Bar Association. It contains chapters devoted to a variety of issues confronted by people with mental disabilities in the criminal justice system such as Competency, Sanity, Malingering, Neuroscience, Jail and Prison Conditions, Working with Experts,and Risk Assessment. Chapters are written by academics, mental health experts, and criminal defense lawyers. In the Introduction, Elizabeth writes that "This is the resource I wish I had had many years ago."