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Sleep Deprivation Does Not Mimic Alcohol Intoxication on Field Sobriety Testing

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 56 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2011 Pages: 1170-1179
Karl Citek, O.D., Ph.D.; Ashlee D. Elmont, O.D.; Christopher L. Jons, O.D.; Chad J. Krezelok, O.D.; Joseph D. Neron, O.D.; Timothy A. Plummer; Timothy Tannenbaum
Date Published
September 2011
10 pages
Previous research shows that sleep deprivation (SD) produces cognitive impairment similar to that caused by alcohol intoxication.
Individual studies suggest that SD also causes deficits in motor skills that could be mistaken for intoxication. Consequently, SD often is used as a defense when an impaired driver is charged with driving while intoxicated. Twenty-nine adult subjects participated in 2 test sessions each, 1 after a full night's rest and the other after wakefulness of at least 24 h. Subjects consumed prescribed amounts of alcohol during each session. Law enforcement officers conducted field sobriety tests identical to those with which a driver would be assessed at roadside. Researchers also measured clinical responses of visual function and vital signs. The presence and number of validated impairment clues increase with increasing blood alcohol concentration but not with SD. Thus, SD does not affect motor skills in a manner that would lead an officer to conclude that the suspect is intoxicated, unless intoxication also is present. (Published Abstract)


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