Can Anxiety and depression be a defense to a DUI charge in Massachusetts?

When a person is pulled over and ultimately arrested for a drunk driving called OUI in Massachusetts and DUI in most parts of the country, most people would inherently draw a link between drinking and driving. Teenagers, especially, are quick to be stereotyped and labeled for this “behavior”.  What if they were exhibiting symptoms of being drunk, while actually suffering from anxiety or depression? While anxiety and depression symptoms range from person to person, often times the many symptoms are nearly identical to the symptoms that someone under the influence could exhibit.

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Anxiety disorders, time and time again, have proven to be the most common mental illness among Americans; many Americans fail to seek treatment for their illness and end up suffering from a host of devastating symptoms. The ADAA, or The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reported that if a person suffers from anxiety, it is definitely not uncommon for them to simultaneously suffer from depression. For this reason, it makes sense that the symptoms a person exhibits could be significant enough for a law enforcement officer to mistake a person as being drunk.

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Mayoclinic.org has a list of the numerous symptoms that are typically seen in patients suffering from such mental illness; nervousness or being tense, trouble concentrating, feelings of weakness or just simply being tired are a few of the many. These are not dissimilar to the symptoms an individual enduring field sobriety tests may exhibit. For example, when a person is first pulled over, they may act exceptionally nervous or tense. Additionally, when the officer orders a person to do a field sobriety test such as the 9 step walk and turn they may have extreme difficulties concentrating.   Nervousness can impact a person performance on the nine step walk and turn; you can read about the clues that officers look for when administering a nine step walk and turn on my website.

When an individual, whom suffers from anxiety and depression, is ordered to do field sobriety tests; their weakness in their overall body strength, as well as their lack of concentration may be enough to convince an officer that he or she is intoxicated. Teenagers and adults alike may begin to sweat and tremble while performing Field sobriety tests; but this does not signify intoxication, as these are symptoms of mental illness as well.

While in not every case involves this type of defense, a recent article in Time Magazine about depression and anxiety in young adults should cause lawyers to consider how anxiety may impact the defense of an OUI case in Massachusetts.

Feel free to contact Attorney Michael DelSignore today at (781) 686- 5924 if you believe your anxiety or depression may have had an impact on your recent OUI arrest.

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