The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents discovered dangerous levels of lead in their water supply in 2015, has continued to unfold over the past three years and has brought the damaging effects of lead exposure to national attention. When developing children are exposed to even low levels of lead, they are at risk of developing cognitive impairments—disorders that cause aggressive behavior and diminished intellectual functioning. This Comment seeks to bring criminal law into the conversation about lead exposure and its damaging effects. Researchers have found that children exposed to lead have a higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior. But the neurological impact of lead exposure in children suggests these children may not possess the culpability that traditionally justifies criminal punishment. This Comment proposes that, in accordance with the utilitarian and retributive goals of criminal law, evidence of lead exposure and resulting brain damage be considered mitigating factors in sentencing.

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