Although criminals are likely to claim more intensive or severe mental disorders as explanations for committing crimes, recent studies have suggested connections between violent or reckless criminal-like behavior and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is interesting and significant in the area of neuroscience and law because ADHD is yet another neurologically-based disorder and individuals with ADHD are statistically more likely to be involved in criminal behavior than others. Perhaps the more important issue concerning ADHD is not its possible ties to crime and the law, but the fact that the disorder is not well-understood regardless of its potential links to criminal behavior.
According to Dr. Sam Goldstein, the criteria for defining ADHD are somewhat vague (http://www.fbi.gov/publications/leb/1997/june973.htm). One of the basic sympotoms of ADHD is when an individual intellectually knows what is right and wrong, but cannot control their immediate senses of volition and therefore commits acts that are deemed socially unrespectful or abnormal. I feel as though, given specific circumstances, this sort of spontaneous decision-making can occur in anyone. But then, could this mean that everyone has some level of ADHD? Technically, I guess not because there are many other symptoms of ADHD such as not paying attention in demanding situations, having excessively strong emotional reactions, and having a constant urge to seek stimulation. However, again, these all seem like qualities that everyone seems to express at times. Regardless, the bottom line is that there is evidence supporting the validity of the disorder (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/medicating/adhd/nih.html).
As of now, the disease has not been rendered strong enough to excuse criminal conduct. However, in at least one case invloving an attorney misusing client funds, the court considered the attorney's ADHD diagnosis as a mitigating factor during sentencing (http://www.aopc.org/OpPosting/disciplinaryboard/dboardopinions/55DB2003-Durney.pdf). I think this decision to use the mental condition of ADHD as a mitigating factor is unfortunate, as it may serve as a precedent for similar cases. It simply doesn't make sense to use ADHD as a mitigating factor to reduce penalties involved in law inforcement. Not only is the disease itself not yet completely scientifically understood, it is also not yet socially accepted. Even if ADHD is indeed a valid disorder (and I am in no way doubting that it is), many individuals who have ADHD are not aware of their condition, and many people who claim to have ADHD do not actually have it. The reason for this is because there is no clear-cut diagnostic test for the disorder. This means that, if a person were to commit a crime, they could announce after the crime has been performed that they should not be held completely responsible because they may have ADHD. And, because not diagnostic test exists as of now, they could go to virtually any doctor and persuade them to beleive that their condition is real. There would be no way to no for sure whether or not one is telling the truth.
In the end, it has to be understood that, although our nation's courts want to be sympathetic to mentally diseased people and to put as few non-guilty people as possible in jail, we do not know enough about some of these mental conditions to start applying them to the world of law enforcement.