Man with head injury blows 0.00, faces DWI over disorientation

Have you ever noticed in the mirror that your eyes can look watery and bloodshot while you are suffering from the common cold? Do you have allergies? Bloodshot, watery eyes often come up in police reports after a routine traffic stop has been escalated to an investigation into a possible drunk driving case. Minnesota law enforcement officers say that they are trained to note certain indicia of impairment during traffic stops.

These alleged clues often lead to field sobriety tests, and a possible DWI arrest. But can the symptoms of other medical issues lead to a DWI arrest? What about balance issues during dexterity tests? A recent story from the south shows how a DWI investigation may be a simple witch hunt.

Residents of a southern community hopped on cellphones last week to report an erratic driver. A deputy found a vehicle similar enough to the one described by callers and made a traffic stop. Inside was an off-duty police officer, who the deputy thought was showing signs of impairment. The deputy says that the cop had slurred speech and seemed disoriented during the traffic stop. Because the man identified himself as a local officer, the deputy called in state troopers to continue the investigation.

The man was ultimately hauled in for a DWI breath test. Authorities say that the man blew readings of 0.00 percent BAC during the DWI testing. Not satisfied, authorities obtained a blood sample—results from the test have not been returned. But, the man has been charged with DWI nonetheless.

The kicker in the case comes from what happened before and after Saturday’s DWI arrest. The officer was injured while serving a warrant Thursday—before the DWI arrest. Police officials say that the cop suffered a head injury when he fell on the job. He has filed a workers’ compensation claim for the slip-and-fall accident. He is scheduled for an MRI for a possible concussion later this week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that among the myriad of possible symptoms of a concussion are slurred speech, disorientation, and even loss of coordination. The eyes can be affected, and a person may appear drowsy. These same symptoms may often be recited in a DWI arrest report. Some symptoms are even used by police to support a failure on field sobriety tests—like alleging a lack of coordination.

There are many reasons why DWI defense lawyers may seek to challenge the state’s evidence in court.

Source: Star News, “Internal probe under way after Leland cop charged in DWI,” Jason Gonzales, Sept. 23, 2013

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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