Illnesses May Be Mistaken For Intoxication

A good DUI defense lawyer will spend sufficient time conferring with one’s client to determine whether the arresting officer mistook the client’s medical condition as intoxication.
Unfortunately, this mistake occurs every day—often presenting with people suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Diabetes, and sleep disorders such as Narcolepsy. An example of this mistake occurred in 2021 when a Williamson County, Tennessee nurse went to pick up her five-year-old son from daycare.

WSMV-TV reported that when the daycare worker noticed that the nurse was, “circling here, scratching her head, and talking to herself,” the daycare employee called the police who investigated. Even though the officer failed to detect any odor of alcohol, the admission by the nurse of taking Prozac and Adderall to treat ADHD combined with her poor performances on the standardized field sobriety tests caused the nurse to be arrested for both DUI and felony child neglect. The falsely accused nurse would then be separated from her son for nine weeks. It took six months for the blood test results to verify that the nurse was not under the influence—and that her prescribed medication was well within therapeutic levels. No other intoxicants were found in her blood.

The lawyers at Oberman and Rice obtain a full history of medical issues in order to attempt to demonstrate that a client’s physical or psychological condition, anxiety, physical disability or simply being out of shape may have been erroneously mistaken by the officer in forming his or her opinion that the suspect was impaired. Unfortunately, this is another example that standardized field sobriety tests are not fool-proof.

About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants. Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD). Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve has served as Dean of the NCDD and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.

He is the author of DUI: The Crime Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 9th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen). Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions. He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and six foreign countries. After being named a Fulbright Scholar, Steve was honored to teach as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Latvia Law School in the capital city of Riga, Latvia during the Spring Semester of 2019. If you would like to contact the author, please visit his website at