The Truth about Traumatic Brain Injuries and Violent Behavior

The Truth about Traumatic Brain Injuries and Violent Behavior

You may have seen headlines about traumatic brain injuries and violent behavior, but now it’s time to delve into the truth. We’ve put together a few facts that you may not know. Let’s start with a few basics. What is a traumatic brain injury? When the medical world talks about traumatic brain injury (TBI for short), they mean harm or damage to the brain that does not degenerate over time and was not present at birth (non-congenital). The harm results from an outside mechanical force that strikes the brain and results in permanent or temporary disability with respect to the person’s cognitive, physical and psycho-social capabilities, often accompanied by diminished or altered consciousness. The definition has not enjoyed a consistent use and often varies by circumstances and by medical specialty. We often hear it as a synonym for head trauma and not always with neurological effect. How do experts define violent behavior? Therapists define violent behavior as the use of physical force to injure another person or destroy property. Is there biological evidence of TBI causing violence? Yes. For example, the amygdala resides in the frontal lobe. The amygdala joins a person’s emotions to his thoughts. Therefore, if the amygdala sustains injury through the TBI, then the patient exhibits poor impulse control and violent behavior. If the temporal lobe has lesions caused by damage from pieces of skull bone piercing the temporal lobe, then the patient has difficulty regulating limbic input. The limbic system is an area of the brain made up of nerves and neural networks that relates to instinct and mood. Injury to this system can result in impulsive and violent behavior. In addition, damage to neurotransmitters can result in an increase in the chemical norepinephrine which can cause loss of impulse control in TBI patients. Other studies showed increased dopamine in TBI patients which leads to aggression and agitation. Still other studies have shown a reduction in serotonin levels in TBI patients which leads to increased impulsive and aggressive behavior. How does medical evidence of TBI work in the courtroom? Stephen J. Morse, professor of law and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania is also a member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, a group that studies in the area where neuroscience meets criminology. He says that neuroscience has added nothing to the study of law because people commit crimes, not brains. It’s not that he disagrees that brain injury can cause lapses in judgment or loosen inhibitions. It’s that the studies so far cannot show whether or how the person tried to control his impulses and whether other factors besides the injury contributed to his impulses. Still, lawyers bring TBI defenses more often into the courtroom each year. Many of these cases center around neuroscientific evidence with respect to defendants who served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, there are now special veterans’ courts, 80 in total. These courts began in recognition that veterans have special health issues related to… Read more {+}

What is a “Diversion Program” and Who Can Use One?

In its most simple definition, a Diversion Program is a rehabilitation program for criminals meant to prevent a conviction and a criminal record. However, the details of where, what kind, and who is eligible are different from state-to-state and county-to-county. Diversion inside the criminal justice system can take many forms. When police officers let a motorist go with a warning instead of a speeding ticket, this is a personal decision to enact diversion, coined “informal diversion”. However, most diversion involves a formal program. Encyclopaedia Britannica outlines some of the more formal types of diversion: Post-Arrest Social Service Programs – An example of this would be a substance abuser who enters a detox program. This approach addresses the root cause of their behavior to prevent it from happening again. Upon completion of these programs, the case will return to the courts for dismissal. If the program isn’t completed or stipulations aren’t met, the case will proceed within the court system. Jail Diversion Programs – This type of program keeps the offender from serving jail time while waiting to appear in court. This type of diversion begins when a police officer writes a summons to appear in court or after an arrest and booking at the police station. This allows the offender to maintain their job or other responsibilities while awaiting their court date. Pre-trial and Post-Conviction Diversion – Some diversion programs begin after an arrest, but before the offender enters a plea in court. However, even after conviction, a judge may opt to sentence an offender to a diversion program instead of incarceration. This takes many forms, such as probation, restitution, and community service. Diversion programs are usually offered to first-time offenders or those who have committed nonviolent crimes. The goal in diversion is to give the offender the opportunity to correct his behavior without gaining a criminal record. It is also less costly to the courts, as rehabilitation is less expensive than prosecuting and incarcerating the offender. Diversion programs are widely used within the juvenile justice system. reports that: “While it is recognized that some youth commit serious offenses and may need to be confined to a secure setting, research has shown that many youths in the juvenile justice system are there for relatively minor offenses, have significant mental health issues, and end up in out-of-home placement or on probation by default. Diversion programs are alternatives to initial or continued formal processing of youth in the juvenile delinquency system.” Their article goes on to say that they believe diversion programs are a more productive way to prevent future crimes than putting juveniles through the court system. They feel formal processing puts a delinquent label on the child and that exposing them to adult correctional facilities harms more than it helps. Different entities offer these programs, such as: Police Departments The Courts The District Attorney’s Office Outside Service Agencies In example, Ramsey County Diversion Programs are available to adults and juveniles.  According to the County Attorney’s office, juveniles who have little or no… Read more {+}

Minnesota Supreme Court: BB gun doesn’t fit definition of gun

The Minnesota Supreme Court finally wakes up and follows the Federal Government and the rest of the nation in ruling that BB guns are NOT FIREARMS!   This has long been a disparity in the law.  Felons have been sent to prison for YEARS for possession of BB guns, little more than toys or tools that require NO BACKGROUND CHECK, no limitation at the point of sale.  If you or someone you know has been convicted of any firearm felony involving a BB Gun, call now because I’ve written this brief 5 times.    The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a BB gun is not considered a firearm under Minnesota law. Source: Minnesota Supreme Court: BB gun doesn’t fit definition of gun Minnesota Supreme Court: BB gun doesn’t fit definition of gun was last modified: October 19th, 2016 by Alex DeMarco

Domestic Assault Dismissed for a Veteran

Hennepin County, MN The politics of domestic assault continue to ignore the rights of the accused and minimize the need for investigation and common sense.  Flase charges are not uncommon, and the falsely accused feel helpless, having perhaps lost possession of their home, temporary custody of their kids, and had their movements and contact restricted.  It often politically incorrect to doubt the words of an accuser, particulary a woman.  Sadly, however, we have created a system that does provide incentive to manufacture domestic assault allegations.  Most of this surrounds the speed with which various mechanisms move when a domestic assault charge is made. However, with hard work and pressure, Alex De Marco secured a great result for a veteran.  He was accused of domestic assault, and his ex-girlfriend attempted to paint his client as some sort of dangerous person due to his diagnosis of post traumatic stress.  Alex detests the stereotyping of veterans as dangerous, knowing that many manage PTSD with no psychotic or violent symptoms whatsoever.  Alex was able to dig deep into the history of the alleged victim, and discovered she had made false accusations of domestic assault in the past, and not just against his client.  Alex subpoenaed officers involved in these cases who had noted the inconsistencies of prior stories.  Despite some concerning though inconsistent physical evidence in his client’s case, Alex secured an arrangement whereby his client would complete some programming, not plead to anything, and ultimately have his case dismissed in a year.  The client was able to keep his honorable discharge and is now a successful small business owner. If you’ve been charged with domestic assault, you need the services of a criminal defense attorney right away.  In particular, veterans and active duty military face consequences for their discharge and their firearm rights and ability to serve.  It’s about more than beating a charge.  It’s about honoring those who have served, and taking into account their unique interests.  Contact Alex De Marco today at 651-503-8394. Domestic Assault Dismissed for a Veteran was last modified: October 13th, 2016 by Alex DeMarco