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Law enforcement can arrest anyone if they have a warrant, probable cause, or see a crime being committed. But too often, circumstances are misunderstood, de-escalation tactics are not used, or implicit bias leads to a mishandled arrest.
One such situation recently happened to a 73-year old woman with dementia in Colorado. The officers involved are now under investigation.
People under age 30 with disabilities are 44% more likely to be arrested, according to 2017 research from the American Journal of Public Health. This statistic includes emotional, sensory, physical, and cognitive disabilities that are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The ADA requires "reasonable accommodations" for people with disabilities under Title II. Typically, reasonable accommodations can include:
Some behavior stemming from a disability may come across as suspicious, such as public disruption or disorientation. Because of the doctrine of qualified immunity, police generally cannot be held liable in court for doing their job.
However, if they are arresting, or have arrested, an individual protected under the ADA, the rules change. If police officers do anything that seems unreasonable to a person with a disability, there is a good chance the case will go to trial despite qualified immunity.
If you have rights under the ADA, you can expect the following during interactions with police:
See the complete list of accommodations from ADA.gov's Q&A covering law enforcement. If you believe your arrest, or the arrest of a loved one, violated any rights under the ADA, speak with an experienced civil rights attorney.