D. Scott Rieth Criminal Defense Attorney
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These common health conditions affect field sobriety tests

While more and more people are coming to understand the different ways that mechanical failures and contaminant substances can affect breath tests, not as many people realize that there are problems with standard field sobriety tests too. This happens because the standard battery of tests used to determine sobriety in the field is based on subjective judgment, which allows implicit biases to move the goalposts on performance according to the discretion of the officer. It also happens because a variety of health conditions that put no legitimate burden on one's ability to drive can cause symptoms that make one likely to fail a sobriety test.

Symptoms to look out for

The risk is not in any one health condition or family of them. Instead it comes from having symptoms that cause the same behaviors police officers are trained to spot as part of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test Battery, such as the following:

  • Memory problems
  • Balancing issues, such as vertigo
  • Vision conditions
  • Mobility issues
  • Seizures or muscle tremors

While some of these symptoms and their associated conditions like epilepsy do place restrictions on one's ability to drive, the fact is that most of these symptoms can occur at levels that cause one to fail a field sobriety test without actually impairing one's ability to drive safely. Patients with connective tissue disorders, severe arthritis, or even chronic pain conditions often find themselves in a position where they are arrested before they can be cleared with a breath test. Even after they are cleared, there is still often an arrest on their record.

What to do if you are stopped

If you have a health condition with symptoms that put you at risk for failing a field sobriety test, it makes sense to request a breath test to prove that you have not been drinking. While Florida law allows officers to choose which tests they will administer, the breath test is usually regarded as a more objective standard of measurement. In the event that the officer does not administer a breath test, it is likely time to talk to an attorney.

If you or someone you know is falsely arrested for DUI

Remember that experienced attorneys who understand both the practicalities and the shortcomings of DUI tests are your best bet. They understand the law, the way it is applied, and the way that people occasionally find themselves entangled with drunk driving law even when they have not been drinking. By consulting with a legal professional, you can clear the situation up as smoothly as possible.

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