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How Stress Can Affect Your DUI Case

Mark DuBiel Arizona DUI Attorney

Seeing the red and blue police car lights in the review mirror can be a very frightening experience. You may experience extreme anxiety upon being pulled over by the police; this is perfectly normal. In fact, being pulled over is one of the highest-ranked fears for most people. You may not be sure how to answer the questions you may be asked. You may not be sure how to assert your rights if an investigation occurs. The truth is, not knowing what to do when you are pulled over by the police can trigger many psychological as well as physiological responses.

When a person is under stress, the body instinctively switches to a “fight or flight” response . Stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol flood the body, causing us to experience these common symptoms of stress. Our heart rates increase, palms begin to sweat, and senses heighten. Biologically, the body is preparing itself to avoid potential harms. The threat of being arrested or investigated can potentially harm our livelihoods.
Your brain functions differently under stress. While it can sometimes heighten awareness and thoughts, severely experienced stressors can negatively affect your thoughts and performances . Think of potential situations where stress can build, for example, after a long day at work or an argument with a significant other. Chronic stress is very prevalent in today’s society . The body will suffer in a prolonged state of the “fight or flight” response, as health professionals will attest to. Heart disease, trouble sleeping, digestion problems, and an impaired memory are examples of the serious effects stress can have. The effects of an acute stressful episode can be just as debilitating.

Portions of the brain responsible for memory, thought, and the ability to focus are seriously afflicted when periods of chronic or acute stress and anxiety are experienced. These symptoms are especially relevant if asked to perform Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s). The results of these tests can potentially affect your future: Depending on the magnitude and length of stress experienced, your performance on these tests can decrease with increased stress. Stress will take your mind off in many directions, and the SFST’s are specifically designed/administered to test your ability to perform “divided-attention” tasks.

The scientific reliability of these tests can also change depending on a person’s health and age. NHTSA, the agency responsible for creating the SFST’s, stated that these tests should require the person to be healthy, within a reasonable age range, and not injured . Often times, these distinctions are not made by officers who fail to read the fine print, and SFST’s are administered in violation of these guidelines. This can lead to invalid scientific conclusions about your performance on the SFST’s, which may result in an unlawful DUI arrest.
In summary, the acute stress of a DUI stop can trigger numerous psychological, as well as physiological, responses. These stress related responses, in addition to other non-alcohol related ones, can lead an officer to grade you poorly in the “divided-attention” tasks, which are relied upon heavily to provide grounds for a lawful arrest. If valid legal grounds do not exist for a DUI arrest, evidence seized thereon is subject to dismissal. This is just one of the many areas a trained DUI attorney should explore when fully
reviewing a DUI case.

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