I Have Nystagmus, It Isn't from Drinking

Question: I really didn't have that much to drink but I got stopped for DUI in Cobb County, Georgia, and the Cobb police officer thought I'd been drinking because I have eye problems. I have nystagmus, which I inherited from my father. The doctor said nystagmus is something that can be passed from one generation to another.

I was driving on Cobb Parkway when I was pulled over by the police. He said I was speeding and that I failed to maintain my lane. I had like two high gravity beers before I drove and I think the cop could smell the beers, but I wasn't really drunk. I felt fine to drive.

The problem was that the cop could see my eyes move and he thought that was from the booze. He even asked me about my eyes and I told him I had nystagmus and I also said I had a couple of brews.

I took all the tests and he arrested me for DUI. This is my first DUI and I'm scared that I could lose my job. Will my nystagmus really hurt me? What should I do?

K.P. Marietta, GA

Answer: We'd like to know some more pertinent facts about your case. We'd like to know how you performed on the field sobriety tests (obviously you couldn't have done well on the horizontal gaze nystagmus segment, but we'd like to know about the other test components), and we'd like to know if you took a breath or a blood test and what the reading was.

It's certainly beneficial that you told the police officer that you suffer from nystagmus and that you can prove it with a medical diagnosis. We have had many clients who have had nystagmus for various reasons. In fact, nystagmus can be inherited or caused by many disorders, including:

  • Very high refractive error, for example, nearsightedness (myopia) or astigmatism
  • Head injury
  • Congenital cataracts
  • Inflammation of the inner ear
  • Thiamine or vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Medications such as anti-epilepsy drugs
  • Central nervous system diseases
  • Inner ear disorders such as labyrinthitis or Meniere's disease
  • Stroke

It is important that a Cobb County DUI lawyer make sure that you show the prosecutor medical evidence of your nystagmus so that the prosecutor knows that it is a medical condition that caused the nystagmus, not drinking alcohol.

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