ADHD and the Law

By Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, CPCC, ACG – March 4, 2024

It might be surprising to learn that kids with ADHD are twice as likely to land in police custody at some point. In fact, as we learn more about behavior in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it’s an easy jump to say that many of the kids in the criminal justice system should have been in the mental health system instead.

To address that quandary, parents and mental health workers are striving to educate lawyers, judges, and law enforcement about ADHD, how it manifests, and how to manage it and recognize it at a crime scene. The more understanding they have, the better they are positioned to deal with ADHD kids more effectively.

There are things parents can do to work with law enforcement to bridge that gap, and by doing so, they can advocate for different types of outcomes when those alternatives are available.

If you are interested in learning more about ADHD advocacy in the criminal justice system, please watch my video, “The Link between ADHD, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice.” Click here:


Jeff Copper:  Welcome, everybody, to this edition of Attention Talk Video. I’m your host, attention coach Jeff Copper. And with us in our makeshift studio, not virtual studio, is Phil Anderton and Sergeant Steve Brown. Gentlemen, welcome to the show.

Dr. Phil Anderton:  Thank you. Good to be here.

Sgt. Steve Brown:  Thank you.

Jeff Copper:  Both these gentlemen are from the UK and both have been great advocates for the ADHD community because they have been giving their time for the last several years. Their background is in law enforcement, and they do a lot of educating the law enforcement officials of ADHD as a means to kind of help them understand and giving tips to parents on what they can do to kind of help things. So Phil, let’s start with you. Can you tell everybody a little bit about what you do with law enforcement community? Because I know that I met you last year at the CHADD Conference in Orlando, and you had just come from Gainesville, Florida after speaking to the police department there. So can you tell us a little bit about that?

Dr. Phil Anderton:  Yeah, we train police officers to work with ADHD, to work with the kids with ADHD so we can get some better outcomes for young people who have the disorder, who are inevitably going to come into touch with the criminal justice system. Just to put some numbers to that, Jeff, for a second, kids with ADHD are four times more likely to commit crime. We’re going to have to go back and do that again because I got the wrong number.

Sgt. Steve Brown:  It’s 50%.

Jeff Copper:  Well, 50%.

Dr. Phil Anderton:  Yeah. So, to put some numbers to that, Jeff, kids with ADHD are twice as likely to commit crime of many different types. We look at inattentive kids, hyperactive kids, kids who can’t manage their own time and manage their own self and have low self-esteem, many different drivers into criminal behavior. And we’re trying to stop that happening. There’s too many kids in the criminal justice system when they should be in the mental health system.

Jeff Copper:  What stands out to me that you’re doing though, is so many parents and people that are working on the kids’ side is that you’re actually educating the law enforcement people of what ADHD is and how it manifests and how to manage it if they see it at a crime scene. Am I accurately reflecting that?

Dr. Phil Anderton:  Yeah, absolutely. Law enforcement officers and other people involved in courts just don’t understand why these kids are behaving the way they do. And the more understanding they can have the better they are positioned to deal with them more effectively.

Jeff Copper:  Absolutely. Steve, one of the other things that you do is you educate parents on some tips of some things that they can do on their side with law enforcement to kind of bridge that gap. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Sgt. Steve Brown:  Yeah. I think it’s very important that parents understand what happens when the police ring them and say they’ve got their child in custody. What’s the right thing to do as a parent? Most parents would immediately jump in the car, go down to the police station to try and support their child. I would say to them, have they got ADHD? Are they the appropriate person to go down to a police station and advocate for their child? If they’re not, then given the figures that Phil’s already told us, 50% of young people with ADHD are likely to end up in custody at some point in their lives, parents need to have a plan for that now. So when I ring them as the police sergeant and say at 10 o’clock at night, can you come down to the police station, collect your son, please? They’re going to be going to court. We need you to come to the police station. They’ve got to have that plan ready. Who is going to go to the police station and be the advocate for that young child? Is it them or should it be another relative or family member?

Jeff Copper:  And that’s a good point. If the parent has ADHD, if they get upset, are they really the right person? You’ve got to plan for it. The other thing that you do is you provide tools for parents, letters to approach even law enforcement officials in the area and/or teachers in advance. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Dr. Phil Anderton:  Yeah. Well, we’ve got a website,, and that’s brimming full with resources for parents and professionals. We’ve got an iPhone app and that’s stacked full of useful things for parents, as well as it helps the person look after their medication regime. And it’s very popular for that. We’ve got 6,000 people across the globe now using it to manage their meds, which is really positive. And of course, if people are on the right medication regime, we can reduce the symptoms and reduce the problems. So, the combination of the website and the app, we’re reaching out there quite well at the moment. We’re quite pleased with how that’s going. You, yourself, you know that the use of modern media and social media is really important to what we do.

Jeff Copper:  Yep. So that… the website again is…

Dr. Phil Anderton:

Jeff Copper: Our listeners are used to being States-based and they’ll probably put dot com, but this is UK-based. So make sure you put the dot C-O dot U-K. And the name of… Steve, what’s the name of the iPhone app?

Sgt. Steve Brown:  It’s ADHD Angel. And it’s very important because you shouldn’t look upon when you come into contact with anybody within the criminal justice system as a point of conflict. It’s your opportunity as a parent to educate that person in the criminal justice system, what ADHD is. The app has got loads of educational things on there that let you show a professional what it is. And also there’s loads of downloads on the site for you to print off, take with you when you go to court, when you see a police officer, when you go to the police station. It’s really important that you view it as an opportunity to educate rather than an opportunity of conflict.

Jeff Copper:  Yeah, I’ve learned and interviewed Rob Tudisco on this particular topic, is that when he…. His background is he’s been in some criminal situations to educate the lawyers and the judge as to what’s going on, because if you can split the ADD and the person, they realize it’s not the heart, it’s the situation. And many times, by doing that, you can advocate for different types of outcomes when those alternatives are available. I do want to mention that we had the opportunity of interviewing Phil on Attention Talk Radio, and you can access that show. It’s in our August 2012 archives at (“Youngsters with ADHD: Avoiding the Criminal Justice System,” But past that, gentlemen, thank you very much for coming on the show. It’s been very, very insightful.

Dr. Phil Anderton:  Good to meet you again.

Jeff Copper:  All right. Take care.


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