‘JP’s law’ would list autism on Va. driver’s licenses, ID cards

Posted on: 11:54 pm, January 17, 2014, by and , updated on: 08:06am, January 20, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The family of a 9-year-old Central Virginia boy is pressing lawmakers to help police and first responders better communicate with people with autism.

Pam Mines, the inspiration behind Senate bill 367 said she does not know a lot about politics or policies, but believes in being pro-active protecting her nine-year-old son JP.

Mines worries some people with autism may have trouble communicating their disability to police. As a result, those citizens could be interpreted to be ignoring officers or acting unruly.

“I really wanted to make sure my son was protected in the event, a situation came about, where he is faced with law enforcement and they’re not aware he has autism,” Mines said.

Mines came up with the idea of a special code on Virginia driver’s licenses and identification cards that would alert law enforcement they are dealing with someone with autism.

Mines contacted Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) who introduced the bill.

“We need to give police officers additional tools,” McEachin said. “We need to give first responders additional tools, so that on a license or on an ID card, that’s completely voluntary… so they know this person has this malady.”

McEachin said if the legislation eases one encounter with law enforcement, it’s worth the fight.

The Hanover Sheriff’s Office, a leader in educating deputies about the autism spectrum disorder, supports the initiative.

“There are people with autism, as well as Asperger syndrome, out in the public,” Sgt.  Tim Sutton with the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said. “They’re driving, have jobs, they have families but they may have certain behaviors that are not typical as we would expect and officers need to be aware of that.”

Sutton believes having an indicator would be a major help since someone with autism is seven times more likely to have contact with law enforcement.

“If a police officer comes up to us and asks us questions, they may not be able to communicate it effectively because of that cognitive delay,” said Mines.

The Virginia Institute of Autism said they train law enforcement and first responders to understand the signs and symptoms of Autism spectrum disorders.

“It should be a personal choice for the individual to opt-in to having a notification on their driver’s license,” the organization said in a statement about the bill.

The bill, which passed a Senate committee in a unanimous vote, is expected to be read on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Click here to connect with JP’s law on Facebook

12 comments

  • Dustin Cavanaugh says:

    It should not be limited to autism as far as mental illness goes.

  • Manalishi says:

    Autistic drivers??!!,,, With a licence??!! Now,, this akes sense to have an explanatory ID, But that very notion that the autistic has a DL can only be a by-product of stereotypical democrat MOONBAT’s like mcscreachin. What could possibly go wrong??!!

    • Lyn Patricia says:

      There are people on the spectrum who are capable of driving and would be no worse drivers than anyone else on the road, however I think the majority don’t fit into that category.

  • jim says:

    It will help the police rationalize why they shot someone.

    • Manalishi says:

      Jim, your statement is a well documented proven fact. “No policies were broken” as well as a paid administrated leave to follow.

  • Lyn Patricia says:

    Unfortunately with a lot of incidents lately law enforcement is acting/reacting well before the driver or person in question has the time to be able to pull out some kind of identification that would indicate they had some kind of impairment. Creating some kind of non state or federal mandated sticker or ID card that indicates Autism, or Autistic passenger similar to med alert type bracelet codes is a good ID. Putting this kind of oversee into the hands of the government for drivers license and other official ID’s is opening a Pandora’s box, though the people initiating it are well intentioned, I see potential for abuse..

  • Kat Krug says:

    this is a horrible idea, solely because it affects employment. according to the ADA, people with disabilities do not have to disclose their disability/disabilities to employers. ever. at all. by listing autism and other social, developmental, mental, or even physical disabilities on ID cards and driver’s licenses, disabled people such as myself are now forced to tell everyone they hand their ID to about their disability. the idea has great intent, but it will be shot down by civil rights lawyers and lobbyists. instead, we need to train our police forces better.

    we don’t need to give non-disabled people better tools to adjust to disabled people. we need to give disabled people better tools to adjust to society that was made for non-disabled people.

    • Dustin Cavanaugh says:

      If people didn’t act like asshats to others this wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

  • There are many Autistic drivers. I have been driving for 37 years. I have never been in an accident that was caused by me. I presume the fender benders I have been in that were caused by others were caused by non-autistic “typical” people. Some of the comments here show why the legislation is a bad idea. For more on this, please read http://paulacdurbinwestbyautisticblog.blogspot.com/2014/01/autism-designation-on-virginia-drivers.html

  • Kat Krug, it passed the Senate unanimously. I don’t know if civil rights lawyers can shoot it down but people with disabilities can put in a word. Since it is going over to the House side now, here are the members of the House with contact info: http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php

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