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  • Are Senior Citizens at Higher Risk for a DUI?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    drug-diversion_600x400If you were to think about which demographic is at high-risk for a DUI, you would probably think of those in their 20s. When it comes to seniors, you would think that an elderly person is at low risk, because they tend to not engage in high-risk drinking like their younger counterparts.

    Sadly, seniors are not immune to DUIs, and they are just as susceptible to a DUI as the younger population – and in some cases, at higher risk for a DUI. Most senior citizens do not consume heavy amounts of alcohol, but even a small amount can result in a DUI for a senior – even more so than a younger person.

    Why Are Seniors at Higher Risk for a DUI?

    Seniors might drink less but are at higher risk for a DUI. Why? Because while a younger person’s DUI is based solely on their alcohol consumption, a senior’s DUI is often a combination of small amounts of alcohol and the numerous prescription medications a senior takes at the time.

    These medications can increase the effects of alcohol, make them appear more inebriated, and severely decrease their ability to drive safely.

    If you have ever looked at the side of a prescription drug bottle, you may see a warning label stating that alcohol effects may worsen while taking that medication. Combine that with the slower response times that come with aging, it puts the elderly at higher risk for being arrested for a DUI. An elderly person’s blood alcohol level might not be over the legal limit, but that medication will affect reaction times, vision, and balance.

    Certain Health Conditions Increase Risk for DUI as Well

    Certain ailments and health conditions could increase a person’s risk for a DUI as well. For example, diabetes can affect a person’s ability to drive safely, and a sugary alcoholic beverage could impact blood sugar levels, making a person appear inebriated even if they are not.

    There is also a condition known as the auto-brewery syndrome, which makes a false breathalyzer result.

    A Senior Can Fail a Field Sobriety Test without Drinking, Too

    A senior could fail a field sobriety test without ever having a drop of alcohol. This is because certain medications decrease coordination and balance, and certain health conditions can impact this as well. Therefore, when an officer pulls them over under suspicion of a DUI and asks them to do the field sobriety test, they will fail the walk-and-turn portion of that test – resulting in a DUI arrest.

    Remember, law enforcement can arrest you even if your BAC registers under the legal limit, because you could be under the influence of medications, illegal substances, or still be inebriated with a lower BAC than the 0.08 percent.

    Showing Proof of a Medical Condition or Prescription Will Not Force the State to Drop the Charges

    You might assume that if a person can show proof of a legal prescription, then they would be let “off the hook” for their DUI, but this is not the case. Instead, defending yourself in a DUI case like this becomes incredibly complex, and here is why:

    • Having a prescription does not mean that you are not responsible for a DUI. If you were pulled over under the suspicion of a DUI, that means the officer witnessed unsafe driving practices that mimicked someone under the influence. Even if you had no alcohol in your system, that prescription medication may have rendered you unable to safely operate a vehicle; therefore, choosing to drive put others at risk and is still considered a DUI under the law. Driving while under the influence is not limited to a blood alcohol level or alcohol in general. Instead, a person can be arrested and charged with a DUI while taking a prescription medication, too.
    • Having a medical condition does not excuse the DUI. Just like having a prescription, a medical condition diagnosed by a healthcare professional will not erase the DUI. If you have a health condition that makes you unable to drive safely, then you should not operate a vehicle. The state could argue that by driving, you knew you were putting others at risk and drove anyway; therefore, the state will still charge you with a DUI or reckless driving, depending on the substances in your system.
    • Having a low BAC does not mean you will prevail in your defense. You may have had a single drink and your BAC was well under the legal limit, but that does not mean it excuses your DUI. If the officer can show they had probable cause, and they testify to your driving habits at the time they pulled you over, it may be enough to prove you were still under the influence. A lot of drivers assume that if they are under the BAC of 0.08 percent, they are free from being charged. However, any time you are intoxicated enough to drive unsafely, you have broken the law.

    Now Is the Time to Hire a DUI Defense Attorney

    If you are in the state of New Mexico, whether you are 25 or 65, you need a DUI defense attorney right away. Defending against a DUI is difficult no matter what, and if you have special circumstances that led you to your DUI (such as medications or a health condition), you need someone with experience handling DUI cases and your type of case specifically).

    The team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices has helped countless clients, just like you, facing DUI charges. It does not matter if this is your first offense or third, we aggressively fight for your right to a fair proceeding, and we work hard to reach the best possible outcome in every case we take on.

    If you have been arrested for a DUI, you have the right to an attorney, and you should contact one as soon as possible. Get started by calling our office to schedule a free consultation or contact us online with your questions about our DUI defense.