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DUI: I Wasn’t Drunk, I Was Just Sleepy

Question: I did really badly on the DUI filed tests and I'm sure I look very drunk on the video. I really wasn't that drunk but I think I looked like I was smashed and I think it's because I went without sleep for two nights. Now I need a DUI lawyer in Cobb County.

I work in consulting and I had to stay up all night working on a project that's important to my boss so I didn't get any sleep. Actually, I may have had about an hour a night over the two nights.

Once we finished the project we went out to a bar/restaurant in Midtown Atlanta, near our office, and we drank a good amount of beers and mixed drinks. I was with our whole team and there were eight of us, plus three people from our office in Miami who came to Atlanta for the project.

After drinking and eating I felt really sleepy and drove home to my house in Marietta. The problem is that on the way there I got into a small accident with a car that stopped short. There was no major damage but the other driver, some guy in the army I think, called the cops because he wanted a police report for insurance reasons.

When the Cobb police came they asked me if I had been drinking and I said I had a few beers and a shot or two. The cop said he could smell the booze and he asked if I'd take some tests for him and I did. But on the tests I did real badly. I fell twice and I hurt my arm. I know I looked drunk as hell but I wasn't; I just had a buzz.

I think that since I was tired from all that working he thought I was seriously intoxicated. Can I use the fact that I hadn't slept as a defense because I can get my boss and coworkers to testify that I hadn't slept and that I didn't drink a great amount of alcohol.

W.G. in Marietta, GA

Answer: Being sleep deprived can impact a person's coordination, balance and general appearance. If you haven't slept in a while, you certainly can appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Academic studies have shown that exhibiting signs of being tired can cause some people to think that an individual is drunk.

Interestingly, there is a sleep disorder known as “confusional arousal” that may affect as much as 1 in 7 Americans. This disorder can lead to confused or inappropriate behavior — such as answering the phone when an alarm goes off — or sometimes even violence. It seems to occur when someone is woken suddenly. They are startled being awake and can exhibit strange behaviors.

So there is definitely a basis to believe that a law enforcement officer may think that someone is intoxicated when that person is simply very tired.

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