driver suspected of dui taking a sobriety test

If a police officer observes a driver behaving in a way that leads them to suspect the person is under the influence, the officer only needs a reasonable suspicion of DUI to stop the vehicle. However, not all erratic driving is due to intoxication. Certain medical conditions may cause a driver to act in a manner similar to a drunk driver without actually being under the influence. If you have been arrested for DUI in Florida under these circumstances, it’s important to engage an experienced DUI lawyer to represent and defend you. The defense attorneys at Flaherty & Merrifield are here to help.

Medical Conditions That Can Be Mistaken for Drunk Driving

In Florida, an officer may administer a field sobriety test if they pull a driver over due to observing any driving behavior – such as swerving or driving erratically – that appears to be an indicator of drunk driving. Such behaviors can be indicators that a driver is under the influence, but that is not always the case. A number of common medical conditions may cause a police officer to suspect that you are intoxicated and stop you for suspicion of DUI. Examples include:

  • Diabetes: This condition can cause unstable blood sugar. If one’s blood sugar gets too low or too high, they can become dizzy and disoriented. Additionally, a diabetic experiencing ketoacidosis may have ketones in their system, which – in rare situations – may lead to a false positive on a breathalyzer.
  • Brain Injuries: A person who has suffered a traumatic brain injury or is dealing with the lingering effects of a concussion may have difficulty speaking or could behave erratically. An officer who stops the driver may mistake this conduct as an indicator of DUI.
  • Dementia: This degenerative condition of the brain can cause extreme confusion and is often not diagnosed until symptoms become severe. If a police officer stops a driver who has this condition, their bewildered or agitated behavior may lead the officer to conclude that the driver is drunk.
  • Epilepsy: Epileptic drivers can suffer sudden seizures without warning. A driver who is in the throes of a seizure could manifest erratic behavior, such as agitation, staggering, or dizziness – all of which could lead a law enforcement officer to suspect DUI.

DUI Convictions Can’t Be Based on Medical Conditions in Florida

The fact that you were arrested for or charged with DUI doesn’t mean that you should be convicted. A DUI conviction cannot be premised on an illness, no matter how you were driving. Under Florida law, a DUI conviction must be based on being under the influence of:

  • Alcohol
  • Controlled substances
  • Certain chemical substances

You should be aware that having a medical condition that affects your driving does not allow you to completely escape legal responsibility for your actions behind the wheel. For example:

  • If you are ill and you swerve on the roadway, you could still get a ticket for improper lane changes and dangerous driving.
  • If you have a medical condition that makes driving a vehicle unsafe for you, you could lose your right to drive.

Even so, these outcomes are not the same as being convicted of DUI, which could have far more serious consequences for you and your right to drive.

A Florida DUI Attorney Can Help

If you have been charged with DUI for actions caused by a medical condition rather than intoxication, you will need to prove your medical condition and show how it caused you to drive in a manner similar to being intoxicated. An experienced DUI attorney can help you review your case to help you determine the best way to move forward.

In this type of situation, an effective legal defense can rely upon medical experts and other physical evidence that you may not be able to marshal and present effectively without the benefit of legal counsel. This is why it’s important to work with a knowledgeable DUI attorney who can effectively defend you against the DUI charge rather than trying to handle your own defense in such a complex and challenging situation.

Working with an experienced DUI attorney, such as the Flaherty & Merrifield team, will help you effectively defend yourself against DUI charges related to a medical condition rather than impairment due to intoxication. Our experienced legal team will work proactively to review your medical records and the circumstances surrounding your arrest to identify an appropriate strategy to effectively fight the charges against you.

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