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How do disabilities factor in to field sobriety tests?

Many of the standard field sobriety tests that police officers administer when they pull someone over for suspected drunk driving require some level of balance, coordination and physical agility. They involve activities including standing on one leg, and walking and turning, that can be difficult if someone is under the influence. However, they can be impossible for people with a multitude of disabilities as well as physical limitations caused by age or weight.

Even a person's performance on the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, which measures eye movements as a person follows an officer's finger or light, can be impacted by certain disabilities, medical conditions or medications.

How well a person does on these tests can be one factor in whether an officer decides to arrest them. If a person doesn't agree to take a Breathalyzer test and shows no signs of intoxication, such as smelling like alcohol, a person's performance on these roadside field sobriety tests may be the only evidence of drunk driving that an officer has for making an arrest.

What if you make the officer aware of any physical conditions that will impact your ability to do the required actions and the officer proceeds with the tests anyway and uses your performance as a basis for arrest? You may be able to challenge that evidence in court.

Even if you didn't notify the officer of any physical limitations or other factors that could impact the test, you may be able to get the test results, and potentially the case, thrown out. You may need to provide evidence of your own of your medical conditions. An experienced Maryland DUI attorney can provide valuable guidance and help you work to protect your rights.

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