This question was suggested in an aside in the question Is it more difficult for autistic people to adhere to a code of conduct (in written communication)? .
As the OP of the above question mentioned, it is common for disability to be treated as a mitigating factor for rule violations. An example that many people are familiar with is the criminal justice system, where a defendant successfully establishing that they committed an offense as a result of a neurological or psychiatric disability can often obtain either an acquittal or a conviction with a lower punishment than they otherwise would have received (e.g. probation with mandatory therapy as opposed to prison). I have also encountered an argument that misconduct primarily driven by disability (as opposed to free choice) should result in an enhanced penalty on the basis that a user who lacks the ability to choose the correct behavior is dangerous and cannot be rehabilitated with education.
An enhanced penalty actually happened in an online community I was a part of in the past (it has since shut down). A user contributed constructively for several weeks (not one of our top contributors, but enough effort to satisfy us that she was not a troll). One morning, we got up to find that she had flooded the community with (off-topic and offensive) allegations of outré sexual practices among the mothers of various community members punctuated by long chains of obscenities. When moderators confronted her over this behavior, her defense was that that is what happens when she goes off her medication. The decision was made to give her an indefinite ban as opposed to a more typical timed suspension because her lack of control over her behavior made her dangerous to the rest of the community and none of us were equipped to help her with her issue.
Are there any best practices on how to handle disability defenses when it comes to determining the appropriate penalty for conduct violations, especially as it relates to online communities? Just to be clear, I am asking about cases where it has already been determined that a community member violated a code of conduct and the question is whether their claim that they committed the misconduct as a result of a disability (e.g. autism, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, etc.) should result in a diminished penalty, an enhanced penalty, or the same penalty as would be given to a user whose misconduct can be attributed fully to free choice. If there are no best practices, what are some practices that you have found helpful in making the determination?
To be clear, I am using the term "free choice" to refer to situations where a person has sufficient abilities and resources to comply with a rule, regardless of the reason that they do not. For example, I distinguish a case of a user who gets in trouble because they chose not to read the code of conduct and ignorantly violated it (free choice) and a case where a user's dyslexia prevented them from reading the rules (neurological disability).
I know that some people reserve the word "punishment" for moral retribution or revenge while characterizing preventative incapacitation (e.g. banning someone to prevent them from harming other community members rather than to make them suffer because they were bad) to fall under the broader term consequences. I am referring to setting consequences.