The Challenges of the Elderly and the Disabled Facing a DUI Arrest in Louisiana


An arrest for a DUI is a stressful event that becomes even more worrisome when you face charges that you believe are based on faulty evidence. In Louisiana, charges based on field sobriety tests can be challenged in court. For the elderly and the disabled, a skilled Louisiana DUI attorney, like the professionals at Bates and McMillin, are able to identify flaws in the State’s case and will work hard to protect your rights.

The Perils of the Field Sobriety Test

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has sanctioned three field sobriety tests, which are:

  1. The Walk and Turn Test
  2. The One Leg Stand
  3. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN)

The Walk and Turn and One Leg Stand tests are reliant on coordination and balance, which many disabled and elderly persons struggle with. Thus, a physical handicap can lead to a DUI arrest if the officer falsely assumes that alcohol is to blame for a failed sobriety test. Research highlights the difficulties that the elderly experience with these tests, as the Journal of Aging Science reports:

The walk and turn is a tightrope exercise requiring an unnatural coordination of muscles and balance. By the time one is aged 60; maximum muscular force is reduced by about 50% and the maximum movement speed up to 90%.

Similarly, in regards to the HGN test, how one’s eyes move can be directly impacted by a disability or visual impairment that the officer knows nothing about. The officer is forced to make a judgment that leads to a DUI arrest rather than the appropriate traffic citation. The DUI attorneys at Bates and McMillin know how unfair this is and will fight to see that you don’t face the harsh penalties of a DUI conviction.

When The Breath Test Isn’t An Option

Even if the officer realizes that the field sobriety test may not be the best option for the elderly or the disabled, determining a driver’s BAC may not be an easy task. While many drivers can use the breathalyzer to prove that their BAC is below the .08 legal limit, those with a breathing disorder can find this to be an impossible task. In general, the breath test is a difficult option for many seniors. As Study Health explains:

Elderly people tend to suffer from a shortness of breath a lot more than younger people. When a person gets older, their energy decreases and they have more and more ailments that bother than on an everyday basis, this is normal. Shortness of breath is one such problem that is very common in people who are over the age of 65.

A Note About Medications

An additional challenge the elderly and disabled face is a driving under the influence of drugs arrest. Louisiana statute 14 La. Rev. Stat. § 98 states that a DUI arrest can occur if a person consumes alcohol in addition to a legal or illegal drug–including prescription and OTC medications. As many senior citizens and disabled persons often take several medications, it is likely that even a small amount of alcohol in their blood along with those medications can lead to an arrest. Your DUI defense attorney will need to present evidence to show that your driving was not impaired.

All in all, the elderly and the disabled have an uphill battle when facing DUI charges. The Louisiana DUI attorneys at Bates and McMillin understand the challenges you may face, and want to provide you with the best defense. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation.