Oregon State Police
I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a few years ago. My particular symptoms are controlled for the most part by medications and I can safely drive my car, but sometimes my speech is slightly slurred and I could not pass a balance-based field sobriety test. If I am stopped for any reason, how should I present myself?
This is a question to which many drivers can relate, at least on some level. Most of the people Clackamas County Sgt. Richard Sheldon stopped as a traffic deputy were so nervous they fumbled and stammered to the point they may have worried their behavior would arouse suspicions of driving under the influence, even if they hadn't been drinking.
But impairment looks different from a traffic cop's perspective, Sheldon said.
"A huge portion of our contacts deal with people that are under the influence of alcohol and other substances," Sheldon said. "We start to develop an understanding of what a drunk person looks like, or what a high person looks like."
And it's not all that unusual to encounter drivers with a medical condition that can affect speech or movement.
That said, if a police officer suspects a driver might be impaired, they'll usually start asking questions to gather more information and establish probable cause. If you haven't already, this would be a good time to bring up a medical condition, Sheldon said.
Keeping a doctor's note in the car that outlines specific symptoms might help get you on your way faster, too.
If it does come down to a sobriety test, there are alternatives to the usual walk-and-turn. Sworn police officers have nine field sobriety tests at their disposal under Oregon's administrative rules, and most don't involve balance.
Alternatives include checking eye movement, touching your fingertips to your thumb while counting, or reciting the alphabet. (Not backward, Sheldon said. "I couldn't do that.") Officers also sometimes ask drivers to tilt their head back for 30 seconds to see if their perception of time is warped, suggesting impairment.
The tests are frequently used when drivers have a disability or injury and can't easily get out of a vehicle for a walking or standing test.
Wanting to get another perspective, we contacted Portland criminal defense attorney Mark Cogan. He said the issue comes up frequently, although his examples came from cases that went to trial — probably not the reader's ideal outcome.
He said it's probably a good idea to carry documentation. And in most traffic stops, medical issues should come up anyway.
"Typically they're required to ask the person, 'Do you have any kind of medical issues? Have you seen a doctor recently?'" Cogan said. "Police do anticipate that as a possible cause for appearance of impairment."
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I have Parkinson's diseases and thought it would be nice to have a place where the contents of updated news is found in one place. That is why I began this blog.
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Saturday, September 12, 2015
|PHOTO: Budding Brisbane artist Mary-Louise Levick uses her Parkinson's disease to capture her signature style photos. This is a photo of the Story Bridge in Brisbane. September 2015. (Supplied: Mary-Louise Levick)|