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When a Medical Issue Makes You Look Drunk

 Posted on April 22, 2024 in Criminal Defense

CA defense lawyerPolice officers do not drive around with quality lab equipment for accurate roadside B.A.C. testing in the trunks of their cars. This means that most DUI arrests are based on an officer’s subjective perception of a person’s intoxication. The same is true for other arrests and probable-cause searches related to alcohol, such as public intoxication and minor-in-possession issues. However, many people have medical, mental health, or cognitive conditions that can make them appear to be drunk when they are not. If you are accused of an alcohol-related offense because a police officer mistook symptoms of your medical condition for intoxication, you need a skilled San Jose, CA criminal defense attorney.

Physical Health Issues That Can Look Like Intoxication

Medical conditions that can cause a police officer to think a person is intoxicated include:

  • High or low blood sugar - People with very high or very low blood sugar may appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  • Vision impairment - A person with a vision impairment might stumble, bump into other objects or people, fall, or fail to notice a police officer trying to get his or her attention. 
  • Vertigo - Vertigo is a neurological condition characterized by impaired balance and dizziness. When vertigo causes a person to walk unsteadily, a police officer may assume he or she is intoxicated. 
  • Skin conditions - Skin conditions ranging from rosacea to mild sunburn can cause a person’s skin to appear flushed, which an officer might think is a sign of drunkenness. 

Mental and Cognitive Health Conditions Mistaken for Intoxication

A person with mental health issues or cognitive difficulties could be wrongfully assumed to be under the influence of drugs. Even mental health professionals may struggle to tell the difference between someone who is under the influence of drugs and someone who is experiencing a psychotic break or is unable to respond appropriately due to neurodivergence. Police officers may mistake the normal effects of these conditions for intoxication:

  • Psychotic disorders - Mental illnesses that cause a person to see or hear things that are not there, to suffer from delusions, or to behave irrationally can be mistaken for the effects of certain drugs. 
  •  Cognitive differences - People with disorders that impact their cognitive processing may not respond appropriately or at all when a police officer attempts to make contact. 
  • Bipolar disorder - People who are experiencing mania due to mental illness are frequently mistaken for drug users. 

Contact a San Jose, CA Intoxication Crimes Defense Lawyer 

Fuller Law Firm is committed to helping people whose medical, mental health, or cognitive disorders have been mistaken for public intoxication or DUI. Santa Clara County, CA public intoxication defense lawyer Cory Fuller, who was born and raised locally, will do all he can to show that you were experiencing an organic illness rather than the effects of drugs or alcohol. Contact us at 408-234-7563 for a complimentary consultation.

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