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Can vertigo cause you to fail a sobriety test?

As someone with vertigo may tell you, it feels like the world is spinning around them and walking properly can be a bit of a chore. Unfortunately, people who have issues keeping their balance may run into problems if they are pulled over by a New York police officer on suspicion of a DUI and asked to perform a field sobriety test. For a variety of reasons, vertigo can cause a person to “fail” a sobriety test.

WebMD explains that people who suffer from vertigo find it a challenge to keep a proper balance. If you suffer from vertigo, you may feel like gravity is pulling you from your left or right. When you walk, you may tilt or sway. Your vertigo may also be accompanied by sensations of nausea, sweating, or a ringing in the ears. Some sufferers vomit and also experience headaches.

Sometimes vertigo does not last long, perhaps only a few minutes, or it can last for a few hours before disappearing. Other people may find vertigo comes and goes. In some cases, the body naturally cures vertigo by adapting to changes in the inner ear. However, there are people who have persistent vertigo and take medication for it. They may be in good condition to drive, but walking is another matter, which is where problems with field sobriety tests come in.

The reason vertigo poses a problem is because a field sobriety test often involves walking in a straight line. In the event you are pulled over by a police officer, you would likely be asked to take several steps in a heel to toe fashion one way and then turn around and repeat the exercise. Being vexed with dizziness or ear problems can seriously sway your balance and make you look like you are inebriated even when you are not.

Remember that you can politely refuse to undergo a field sobriety test. In all likelihood, an officer is not going to ask you about any health conditions that can impact the test. Therefore, it is up to you to take the initiative and point out that you cannot properly balance yourself due to vertigo. You may do the same if you suffer from any physical impairment that would impact your performance on the test.

Keep in mind that this article is not written to provide you with legal advice. It is intended for general information on DUI topics.


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