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DWI Or ADD/ADHD Symptoms?

February 23, 2012

Nationwide, police officers use DWI/DUI Standard Field Sobriety Tests (“SFST”) to justify their arrests. New Jersey allows the use of SFSTs as evidence to help prosecute drivers for DWI. These tests, however, do not account for the disability of ADD/ADHD, which is protected under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) as well as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”). Thus, SFSTs are often the basis of wrongful DWI convictions.

Attention Deficit Disorder (“ADD”) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) is a common condition that is often misunderstood by police officers due to lack of training. Often times, officers may confuse the symptoms of ADD/ADHD with the common signs and symptoms of intoxication. References to a driver being confused, unable to follow direction, and showing abnormal behavior can be symptoms of ADD/ADHD.

Adults with ADD/ADHD have problems in the following areas of executive functioning: procrastination; difficulty getting started on projects; excessive disorganization; underestimating the time needed to finish a task; inability to follow instructions; inability to screen out distractions; “zoning out” when others are talking; randomly skipping from topic to topic in conversation; missing deadlines; forgetfulness; constantly losing or misplacing things; and acting impulsively, among others. The symptoms of inability to follow directions, inattention, and disorganization, in particular, pose problems for those being tested using the national NHTSA scoring for field testing where the criteria for failure is the inability to divide attention under stressful situations. As a result, adults that suffer from ADD/ADHD can have a difficult time performing roadside tests and, without special training, police officers confuse ADD/ADHD symptoms with symptoms of intoxication or impairment.

In addition, police officers often assume that an individual’s ADD/ADHD medication, such as Ritalin, Adderall, or Concerta, is causing what the officer perceives as intoxication and/or impairment. Research has shown, however, that these commonly prescribed medications improve safe driving for those who suffer from ADD/ADHD.

Drivers who suffer from ADD/ADHD and undergo roadside tests are being discriminated against. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination provides a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities. If you suffer from ADD/ADHD and have been arrested for DWI after these tests, a successful challenge requires DWI and SFST expertise. You need an experienced DWI lawyer who has experience in the area of sobriety testing in order to expose the flaws and limitations. Randolph H. Wolf, Esq., will ensure that these tests are challenged as being unreliable.

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