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Misinterpreting signs of certain disabilities as evidence of DUI

Driving under the influence is a serious offense in Maryland. However, individuals with certain disabilities may face unique challenges when interacting with police.

This can lead to potential misunderstandings during traffic stops.

Speech and motor impairments

People with speech or motor impairments, such as those linked to cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, may show behaviors that police officers misinterpret. Officers could erroneously attribute slurred speech or difficulty with motor skills to alcohol or drug impairment.

Nervousness and anxiety

Individuals with mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, may experience more nervousness during encounters with law enforcement. About 27.3% of adults in Maryland report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder.

Anxiety or nervousness can manifest as trembling hands, rapid breathing or difficulty maintaining eye contact. Police may misinterpret these as signs of intoxication.

Sensory processing disorders

Sensory processing disorders can affect how individuals respond to external stimuli. Bright lights, loud noises or the presence of a police officer can overwhelm someone with sensory sensitivities. Police might view unusual reactions to these stimuli as signs of impairment.

Medical conditions and medication side effects

Certain conditions and the medications to manage them can result in symptoms that mimic the effects of alcohol or drugs. For instance, medications for pain management or neurological disorders may cause drowsiness, confusion or unsteady movements. This can lead officers to suspect DUI.

Communication challenges

Communication is key during traffic stops. However, individuals with communication disorders, such as aphasia or certain forms of autism, may struggle to express themselves clearly. Misunderstandings may arise when officers misinterpret communication difficulties as evasiveness or impairment.

Police education and awareness can improve understanding and lead to more accurate assessments.

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