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Health conditions that can affect a field sobriety test

Law enforcement may have you believe that a breathalyzer or field sobriety test is the be-all and end-all in support of a DUI charge. Even sober people may struggle to pass, however, and they are neither an admission nor objective evidence of guilt. There are many factors, in fact, that can complicate the findings of a field sobriety test. Potential health conditions are not the least of these. 

Mobility issues

One of the most common types of field sobriety tests is the so-called walk and turn. Typically this entails taking heel-to-toe steps along a straight line while counting the steps aloud, watching your feet and keeping your arms at your side. Needless to say, any person who has mobility issues will have difficulty performing this process whether or not they have had anything to drink.

Memory problems

The ABC test is another popular field sobriety test. As the name suggests, subjects are asked to recite the alphabet, and there is often the stipulation that it cannot be sung. In some cases subjects are even required to recite it backwards. Unfortunately, if you have memory issues, this will be a struggle. The stress of the situation can further exacerbate memory issues, too.

Vision conditions

If you have vision problems, you should wear glasses while driving, but even glasses may not be enough when it comes to passing a field sobriety test. The aforementioned walk and turn requires walking in a straight line, but any person who cannot see well may appear to struggle. Conditions such as horizontal gaze nystagmus may further worsen the problem.

Tremors and seizures

Though each part of a field sobriety test is supposed to measure drunkenness, much of the process is simply based on a law enforcement officer's perception of whether or not you seem drunk. Tremors and seizures are a perfectly legitimate medical condition with no relevance to inebriation, but that may not stop an officer from making an assumption if they witness either of these conditions.

Vertigo and balance issues

Vertigo can have the same effect as tremors in that it may lead an officer to make inaccurate assumptions. If you have balance issues, it can also affect the outcome of field sobriety tests such as the walk and turn. Whether or not you have had anything to drink, you may have difficulty walking in a straight line and fail the test on that basis alone.

Health conditions are a serious matter when it comes to accurately gauging field sobriety tests. If you have taken a test that you believe may have been affected by a medical condition, you can explore your options by reaching out to an attorney.

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