An Anxious Daughter

Jeremy Doyle’s daughter, Sandy, was in for a sad visit yesterday. Jeremy is still holding on to the quality of life he has remaining, battling end-stage lymphoma and throat cancer. Sandy and my daughter were best friends for many years. At this point Sandy is holding down a full time job and helping out with the care of her father so that he never has to be alone.

Last weekend, after a rough night with her dad, Sandy was pulled over by the local police as her car swerved. She was actually talking on her cell phone (which is still legal while driving in our state) and dropped the phone. She reached for the phone on the floor, swerved the car, and was pulled over by a rookie police officer one year her junior.

Sandy suffers from chronic anxiety made worse by what is happening to her father. The young police officer asked her if she was “on anything”. Assuming he was referring to illegal drugs, she answered “no”, and the officer asked her to step out of her car while he searched it. Her bottle of Xanax was in the glove compartment.

The officer demanded an on-the-spot sobriety test. Sandy’s anxiety got the best of her, and she developed a tremor, heart palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath – essentially a panic attack. She got all shaky and didn’t walk straight enough, so she failed her sobriety test. The officer handcuffed her and hauled her off to the police station for a urine drug screen, the results of which are still pending. It will show the Xanax she had taken, but won’t show how much of the medication she had in her system or if she was impaired by it. She was summonsed for operating under the influence of drugs based on her anxiety during the field sobriety test.

She was more than worried. Her arrest had been made public in our local newspaper. “I could lose my job just for that”, she declared. Her court date is in December. I promised to write a strong letter to the District Attorney explaining the circumstances.

I think this will all go away, but it made me think. Something most of us think of as simple, like a field sobriety test, can be too much to handle for a twentysomething girl with chronic anxiety and a father dying from a cruel and unjust disease.

3 Responses to “An Anxious Daughter”

  1. 1 cathy September 14, 2008 at 2:07 am

    This just made me so angry. Rookie, indeed! My husband is a retired police detective and I just read this post to him. He says it most likely will get thrown out of court. But that does not mean the damage will go away from her record.

    With the invention of the internet,(at least here) everything the person has ever been charged with (not even convicted of, but just charged) is on the municipal court websites, for any and everyone to look up by just entering a persons name. In this area, that would be listed under the public court records as a “drug, sale, use, paraphernalia” charge. They combine all, or any “ONE” of these charges and list it in that manner. It does not matter if there was no sale or no paraphernalia. That’s how all drug charges get listed. It may or may not list that it was dismissed. Try explaining that to a potential employer. This is a dangerous game the cops and courts are playing with people’s lives.

    I hope the courts where you live do not list these type charges in such a way, and I also hope your letter will get her to get this straightened up.

    It almost makes you want to tell her to sue the city.

  2. 2 Country Doc September 16, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    A classic case of how the legal/criminal justice world and the medical world are so fundamentally different. I wonder what’s the sensitivity/specificity/predictive values of field sobriety tests anyway? I would have to think it to be somewhat, what we would say is, “operator dependent.”

  3. 3 The Shrink September 17, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    With the confabulating factors impacting upon her, the field sobriety test really has no utility in assessing capacity to drive, surely?

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