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The Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act

A recently passed bill known as the "The Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act" under Chapter 2016-175, requires the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to issue an identification card exhibiting a special designation for a person who has a developmental disability.

The new legislation also creates Section 943.0439 to require a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or another public safety official to make a good faith effort, upon the request of a parent, a guardian, or the individual, to ensure that specified professionals are present at all interviews of an individual diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder, etc.

This new legislation applies to victims, witnesses and defendants. The statute specifically states that the failure of law enforcement to do so is not grounds for suppression of a statement or the contents of the interview, or for a cause of action against law enforcement.

The Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement to the The Florida Senate was prepared b the Professional Staff of the Committee on Appropriations on March 1, 2016. According to the statement: 

SB 936 encourages the use of state-of-the-art digital devices to assist law enforcement, correctional, or other public safety officials in quickly identifying individuals who have been diagnosed with autism, an autism spectrum disorder, or a related developmental disability and notifying the family members, caregivers, and primary intervention professionals of these individuals when a crisis occurs. 

The bill requires that professionals with experience in treating, teaching, or assisting persons with autism, an autism spectrum disorder, or a related developmental disability be present to assist law enforcement and other public safety officials whether the individual being interviewed is the victim of a crime, the suspect in a crime, or the defendant formally accused of a crime. 

Present Situation: 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).The CDC defines “Autism spectrum disorder” as a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. Though there is nothing about how ASD people look that sets them apart from other people, the CDC states that people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The range of abilities of people with ASD can span from gifted to severely challenged.

Though formerly diagnosed separately, autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, and Asperger syndrome are now included in the diagnosis of ASD.

The following definitions are codified in Florida law: 

“Autism” is defined as a pervasive, neurologically based developmental disability of extended duration which causes severe learning, communication, and behavior disorders with age of onset during infancy or childhood. Individuals with autism exhibit impairment in reciprocal social interaction, impairment in verbal and nonverbal communication and imaginative ability, and a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests.

“Developmental disability” is defined as a disorder or syndrome that is attributable to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, or Prader-Willi syndrome; that manifests before the age of 18; and that constitutes a substantial handicap that can reasonably be expected to continue indefinitely.

“Autism spectrum disorder” is any of the following disorders as defined in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association: 

1. Autistic disorder;
2. Asperger’s syndrome; and
3. Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

Effect of Proposed Changes: 

The bill, cited the act as the “Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act,” encourages the use of state-of-the-art digital devices, such as bracelets, necklaces, and pocket cards that are similar to those kept upon the person of individuals who have certain medical conditions or age-related disabilities, to assist law enforcement, correctional, or other public safety officials and other concerned persons in quickly identifying individuals who have been diagnosed with autism, an autism spectrum disorder, or a related developmental disability and notifying the family members, caregivers, and primary intervention professionals of these individuals when a crisis occurs. 

The bill requires that professionals with experience in treating, teaching, or assisting persons with autism, an autism spectrum disorder, or a related developmental disability be present to assist law enforcement and other public safety officials whether the individual being interviewed is the victim of a crime, the suspect in a crime, or the defendant formally accused of a crime.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, September 20, 2016.