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No Judgment Rush For E.R. Dr. Arrested for DUI

by | Nov 27, 2012

A renowned emergency room doctor, named “Doctor of the Year” recently, was arrested recently for a Massachusetts DUI while she was reportedly on her way to work.

According to authorities, she reportedly pulled out of a grocery store parking lot, somehow traveled over the median, went airborne and then struck another vehicle which then hit a truck. The 78-year-old driver of the other vehicle was taken to the emergency room, where he suffered cracked ribs and and bruising to his leg.

D.C. DUI lawyers know that while some in the community are shocked, they should withhold judgment until the conclusion of the case.

For one thing, medical doctors are in a profession that is not only high-stress, it can be physically demanding – and exhausting. They sometimes work back-to-back, 12-hour shifts, sometimes at differing hours throughout the week. Lack of sleep often mirrors the effects of intoxication, and that element can not be underestimated.

It’s not clear from media reports whether the doctor was actually given a breathalyzer or underwent field sobriety tests at the scene. Officers did find several self-prescribed medications in her possessions. It is against the law for doctors to prescribe their own drugs, but we don’t yet know whether those medications were for heavy, intoxicating narcotics or just run-of-the-mill pills for things like high blood pressure or heartburn.

We know that she was wearing her hospital scrubs at the time. At first, she told officers she was on her way to work. Later, she said she was leaving work. Hospital records will verify the truth, but either way, such confusion can easily be explained as a symptom of exhaustion.

Other symptoms include:

    • Irritability;
    • Problems with concentration;
    • Changes in appetite;
    • Blurred vision;
    • Problems with memory;
    • Inability to tolerate stress;
    • Impairment of judgment.

Numerous studies have found that being fatigue or lack of sleep can slow your reaction time to the rate of someone who is actually intoxicated.The problem is, people are often very poor judges of whether they are actually too tired to get behind the wheel.The National Highway Safety Administration indicates that tiredness contributes to some 100,000 car crashes every year in this country, with more than 1,500 of those being fatal.

That’s probably a low estimate, given that a lack of sleep is not quantified in the same way that intoxication is. You can’t measure a person’s sleep loss or verify that they for sure received a full eight hours the night before.

On the other hand, a lack of sleep could easily be misread as intoxication, particularly if that impairment is written off as the result of drugs – which also can’t be as easily tested at the scene of a crash as alcohol can.

We can’t say for sure that this doctor wasn’t intoxicated or that lack of sleep was the problem. However, it’s a plausible theory, and sometimes, these cases all come down to reasonable doubt.

We live in a very fast-paced world, and the ability to function on very little sleep is sometimes seen as something to be proud of. People who go through life on five or six hours of sleep believe after a while that they’ve become adapted to this. But the fact is, when they are compared in cognitive tests to those who regularly get 8 hours a night, they fail – particularly with regard to their mental alertness.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights or fill out our online contact form. Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards accepted. Call 202-765-3175.