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Medical Conditions Can Be Mistaken as DUI

When a law enforcement officer arrests a driver on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), the suspicion often arises because the driver showed signs of intoxication during a traffic stop or following a car accident. Typical signs of intoxication cited by police officers include as follows:

  • Slurred speech;
  • Odor of alcohol;
  • Red, watery eyes;
  • Confusion or disorientation;
  • Difficulties with balance and coordination; and
  • Difficulty holding up their head or staying awake.

Not all of these signs have to be present for an officer to arrest someone, as drivers may have different levels of intoxication or be affected by alcohol differently.

Under some circumstances, officers may believe that a driver shows signs of intoxication when, in reality, there is another explanation for their behavior. One common reason officers may mistake a driver as drunk is a medical condition with symptoms that resemble the signs of intoxication.

DUI arrest due to unknown brain tumor

At the end of July, a young mother dropped her four kids off at daycare and, soon after, crashed into a curb and a fire hydrant. Law enforcement responded to the scene and found Julie Cunningham showing signs of intoxication, including confusion and slurring speech. They placed her under arrest and took her to jail, where a breath test resulted in a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.0 percent. Regardless, she spent the night in jail before a family member picked her up.

Cunningham claimed she had not been drinking and, though she did not remember the crash, she believed that she fell unconscious behind the wheel of her car. Her speech was still slurred the next day and she was having memory issues and difficulty moving. She sought a medical evaluation at a nearby hospital where doctors discovered a brain tumor the size of a lemon. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor and is now recovering.

Though prosecutors did not file any charges against her, Cunningham is an example of how medical conditions can be mistaken for intoxication by law enforcement officers. If an officer claims you were showing signs of drunkenness and you are now wrongfully facing DUI charges, you need to consult with an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. You should be open with your defense attorney regarding your medical conditions and its symptoms and effects so that your lawyer may identify whether it is a potential defense to present in your case. In addition to medical conditions, certain medications may have unrealized side effects that cause similar behavior to intoxication. If you drove your vehicle because you were unaware of such side effects, a skilled defense lawyer can help you fight against wrongful DUI conviction.

Discuss your DUI case with a Boca Raton criminal defense attorney today

Anyone who has been arrested on suspicion of DUI or any other criminal offense should not delay in discussing their situation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer today. The attorneys at the Boca Raton law firm of Lavalle Brown & Ronan have successfully defended numerous clients facing DUI charges, so please call us today at 888-646-1315 for help.

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