DUIs and ADHD

Have you ever wondered if someone could be pulled over or even charged for driving under the influence (DUI) without actually being drunk? For a person with ADHD there is a chance this could happen. The methods used by officers when deciding whether to pull someone over or arrest them for DUI can be inaccurate for someone who suffers from ADHD. This can lead to an innocent person being arrested for DUI when they possibly haven’t had a sip of alcohol.

First, an officer must decide if they want to pull someone over. When deciding this, officers look for certain driving patterns. These patterns include swerving, following another car too closely, straddling the center of a lane marker, having a slow response to traffic signals, as well as many others.

Because of their disability a person with ADHD may be more likely to engage in these kinds of driving patterns. People with ADHD have symptoms such as poor continual attention, distractibility, impaired impulse control, and hyperactivity. It is easy to see how symptoms like these can cause a person to drive in a way that would make an officer think they are intoxicated.

For example, a person with ADHD who is easily distracted may not pay attention to the traffic light they are stopped at, so their response to the light changing would be slower than a normal person’s. That same driver may also be hyperactive as a result of their ADHD, which could cause them to swerve for something they may not have had to swerve for. This driver may also drift over the center lane occasionally due to their poor attention span. An officer who observes all of these behaviors would easily have enough evidence to suspect the driver of DUI. The officer could then pull the driver over to test whether the person is intoxicated.

After a driver is pulled over, an officer may ask them to undergo a variety of field sobriety exercises. The officer conducts these tests to further determine whether a driver is intoxicated. These exercises usually consist of actions such as touching a finger to your nose with your eyes closed or walking in a straight line with your toe touching your heel while counting each step.

You may think, “How could someone who isn’t intoxicated have problems with tasks such as these? But, if you think back to the symptoms of ADHD, it may start to make sense. Someone with ADHD may not have problems with the physical parts of the field sobriety tests, but the cognitive parts may cause them trouble. We’ve already discussed how people with ADHD have shorter attention spans and can be distracted easily or suffer from hyperactivity. All of these symptoms can interfere with a field sobriety test.

For example, someone who has a shorter attention span or gets distracted easily may have a hard time following an officer’s directions. This could cause them to perform a task incorrectly or not fully complete the task. Someone who is hyperactive may have a hard time standing still and could be fidgety and restless throughout the tests.

Some clues that officers look for to determine whether a driver is impaired consist of difficulty sustaining attention to tasks, failing to follow instructions carefully and completely, and feeling restless and fidgeting or squirming. These are clues that someone with ADHD could show without being intoxicated. They could simply be a result of someone with ADHD having a decreased attention span, being easily distracted, and being hyperactive.

An officer who isn’t knowledgeable about ADHD could mistakenly believe that a person with ADHD who exhibits these behaviors is intoxicated. This could lead to the arrest of a completely innocent driver.

If you or someone you know suffers from ADHD and has been accused of DUI in Florida, it is important to consult an attorney at Meldon Law who is knowledgeable on the subject of ADHD and DUI and can correctly inform you of your legal options. You can contact us online and by phone at (800) 373-8000.

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