Motorists in less than perfect health can find themselves wrongly arrested on criminal DUI charges. Some of these drivers attempted to tell the arresting police officer that their bloodshot or watery eyes or bad balance or poor coordination were due to illnesses - and that they hadn't been abusing drugs or drinking too much alcohol. Other motorists fear talking back to police officers. Drivers have even been arrested and prosecuted when having ailments which remained undiagnosed, never knowing that a medical condition, and not alcohol or drug impairment, caused their intoxicated appearance and poor performance when taking DUI physical tests (walk the line, repeatedly touch the finger to the nose while both eyes are closed, balance on one leg, etc).
Even when not detecting the use of alcohol, police officers are permitted to arrest motorists when seeing traits or behaviors which they associate with DUI driving, such as a reddened face, watery eyes or other traits which could result from medical ailments.
Urine and blood tests, administered after arrest, detect even small quantities of lawful medications or illegal drugs. Since lawful medication or illegal drug consumption may have been of a quantity insufficient to impair a motorist's driving abilities or may have occurred too many days or weeks earlier to lawfully warrant an arrest, DUI defense attorneys frequently succeed in having judges exclude from evidence all laboratory results of urine tests.
It is up to the arrested person (through his or her attorney), and not the State Attorney prosecuting the case, to inform the judge when the results of urine and breath tests should be kept out of evidence. When judges order that evidence obtained from urine tests be excluded (thrown out), prosecuting attorneys frequently plea bargain by dismissing DUI criminal charges and substituting them with the less serious offense of reckless driving.
Drivers who accept plea offers on the less serious charge of reckless driving with a withhold of adjudication may seek to seal their records if having no prior arrests. When DUI charges are dismissed, whether by jury acquittal or judges, persons never arrested before are eligible to seek to expunge their criminal record.
Since medical conditions often mimic the side effects of alcohol and drug use, a well intentioned police officer can wrongly assume you were drinking to excess, ingested too much lawful medication to safely drive or were high on illegal drugs. Innocent people are arrested on DUI charges when exhibiting a few or even one of the characteristics police officers associate with drunkenness, illegal drug use or impairment from use of prescription medication:
- a face which is reddened, flushed, blank or expressionless - eyes which are red or watery - slurred speech - poor balance / poor coordination - slow to react - tiredness or fatigue - jerky eye movements - slow recall or memory- irritability - excessive sweating - nausea / vomiting
Here is a sampling of medical conditions which can place you at high-risk for wrongfully being arrested on criminal charges, along with a description of their DUI-lookalike symptoms:
ACNE: Can cause overall facial redness.
ANEMIA: Symptoms frequently include fatigue and facial paleness.
ANXIETY: Sweating, fatigue, irritability and memory problems are typical occurrences.
BELL'S PALSY: Damaged facial muscles cause flat, expressionless features, often occurring suddenly, sometimes with eye redness and irritation.
CARPAL-TUNNEL SYNDROME: This nerve disorder, common in hands and wrists, limits dexterity. Someone with Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome is likely to fare poorly when following a police officer's command to perform a DUI physical test of closing both eyes and repeatedly alternating hands while bringing fingertips to the tip of their nose. Often caused by repetitive motion at work, most people linger with Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome for months or years before being diagnosed.
COMMON COLD: Red, watery eyes and tiredness.
DERMATITIS: This skin ailment causes slight to bright redness, often to the face and forehead. Typically, the occurrences are sporadic.
DEPRESSION: Fatigue, spontaneous crying and irritability, all typical symptoms of depression, are among the same indicators which police officers associate with DUI impairment.
DIABETES - JUVENILE / TYPE 1: Hypoglycemic reactions can induce a fruity alcoholic breath odor and behavior closely mimicking drunkenness. Nervousness, confusion and difficulty when concentrating are other common traits of hypoglycemia. Neuropathy in limbs can make it difficult to perform well when taking DUI tests, such as walking a line, balancing while one leg is raised and repeatedly bringing fingertips to tip of nose while eyes are closed. Retinopathy, a diabetes-related eye disease, can blur vision - sometimes for just a few hours - temporarily and unexpectedly diminishing driving skills and performance when taking DUI physical tests.
DIABETES - ADULT ONSET / TYPE 2: Neuropathy in limbs can make it difficult to perform well on DUI test taking exercises such as walking a line, balancing while one leg is raised and when repeatedly bringing fingertips to tip of nose while eyes are closed. Retinopathy, a diabetes-related eye disease, can blur vision - sometimes for just a few hours - temporarily and unexpectedly diminishing driving skills and performance when taking DUI physical tests. Persons with adult onset diabetes are often obese, further complicating their performance when taking DUI physical tests. As many as 80% of persons with this form of diabetes are unaware they have the disease.
EAR INFECTIONS: Dizziness which often accompanies ear disorders can impact performance while walking a line or when balancing while one foot is raised, two of the tasks frequently assigned in DUI physical tests.
FIBROSITIS: Muscle inflammation in the neck, shoulder, arms, lower back and thighs is often accompanied by stiffness and weakness. Frequently worsened by fatigue and often undiagnosed, the ailment can diminish a motorist's performance when taking DUI physical tests.
GOUT: Persons with this type of joint inflammation to their feet, ankles, hands, arms or shoulders typically experience pain and limited mobility. They are likely to fare poorly when performing DUI physical tests such as walking a straight line, balancing while one foot is raised or closing their eyes while repeatedly bringing fingertips to tip of nose.
HEEL SPUR: This painful bony growth in the foot makes walking and standing painful and difficult. Sometimes leads to painful back and knee ailments. The ailment lessens one's ability to walk along a straight line or to balance while standing on one foot.
LYME DISEASE: Muscle pain and fatigue, common symptoms, are likely to likely to diminish one's ability to perform demanding DUI physical tests to the satisfaction of the observing police officer. People with Lyme Disease typically are plagued with it for months or years before being diagnosed. MENIERE'S DISEASE: This inner ear disorder impairs balance, making it difficult to fare well when taking DUI physical tests. Jerky eye movements, often associated with Meniere's Disease, can confuse police officers who conduct on-the-scene eye examinations (checking for HGN or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus). In training, police officers are instructed that jerky eye movements (a lack of smooth pursuit of eye pupils) are an indication of alcohol or drug impairment. Vomiting and excessive sweating are among other symptoms of the illness.
MENINGITIS: Frequently suffered from for some time prior to diagnosis. Those afflicted share numerous characteristics often associated with DUI, including eye sensitivity to light, irritability, confusion, fatigue and nausea / vomiting.
MENOPAUSE: Dizziness, moodiness, fatigue, tension, anxiety, bladder irritability and other menopausal symptoms are similar to the symptoms police officers associate with alcohol or drug impairment.
MONONUCLEOSIS: Persons 40 years of age and under, the group most susceptible to mono, comprise the same demographic group which police officers consider the highest risk for being under the influence of illegal drugs. When accompanied by discoloring of skin and / or eyes, police officers can mistakenly believe someone with mono is DUI.
OBESITY: In addition to obese people being less able to perform well on DUI physical tests, such as walking a line or balancing on one leg, they are more likely than most others to have weight-related medical disorders (including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure) which can further impact observations and judgments being made about their physical condition.
PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME / PMS: Rapid emotional changes, dizziness, irritability, anxiety and nervousness are among the same the symptoms police officers associate with alcohol or drug impairment.
PULMONARY DISORDERS: Fatigue, dizziness, restlessness, anxiety and faintness can be confused with the traits police officers associate with alcohol or drug impairment.
SODIUM IMBALANCE: Symptoms of this often undiagnosed ailment include excessive sweating, anxiety, confusion and restlessness, traits police officers consider to be caused by alcohol and drug impairment.
STRABISMUS: A disorder of uncoordinated muscle movement between the eyes, impairing one's ability to focus. Diminished depth perception further impairs the ability fare well on DUI physical tests, such as walking toe to heel along a straight line, particularly in darkness. Uncoordinated eye movements can confuse police officers who are trained to associate a lack of smooth pursuit of eye pupils with DUI impairment during their on the scene eye examination for HGN or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. Police officers are trained to associate jerky eye movements (a lack of smooth pursuit of eye pupils) with alcohol or drug impairment.
SUN POISONING: Deep sunburns common in South Florida can not only redden skin, but may cause fatigue and dizziness.
TRANSIENT ISCHEMIC ATTACK: Brief episodes of sudden decreased blood flows to the brain induce confusion, dizziness, slurred speech, visual irregularities, traits police officers consider to be caused by alcohol and drug impairment.
Medical ailments - including those which have not yet been diagnosed in his clients - can make motorists appear to be impaired by alcohol, prescription medications or illegal drugs. Among the DUI clients a practiced DUI attorney effectively represents are persons whose medical ailments play a role in their having been arrested.