Can Diabetes Cause a False DUI Charge?
Due to a lack of police training in Arizona, diabetics can be the unfortunate victims of unjust charges of driving under the influence (DUI) charges. Diabetics experience a condition known as hypoglycemia when their blood sugar level drops dangerously low. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of hypoglycemia mimic the symptoms a police officer is trained to look for in an impaired driver, including:
- Pale skin
- Poor coordination
- Poor concentration
- Numb mouth or tongue (which causes slurred speech)
Given these symptoms of hypoglycemia, it is not uncommon for a person suffering from a potentially serious medical condition to get pulled over and treated as if he or she were drunk or impaired by drugs. Hypoglycemia can occur when a diabetic takes too much insulin, skips a meal or simply exercises too much. Some medications can also cause a drop in blood sugar. While hypoglycemia is most common in people with diagnosed diabetes, it can also occur in someone who has not yet been formally diagnosed or in an otherwise healthy individual who has significantly altered his or her diet or exercise routine.
Ketoacidosis is another common diabetic condition that can result in a false DUI arrest. When a human body does not have enough glucose from food for the cells to burn for energy, the body will burn fat instead. When a body is burning fat, a process called ketosis occurs because acids known as ketones are being produced. [See https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-1-diabetes-guide/what-is-ketosis#1.] Ketosis is something a healthy body does to keep working and is a normal metabolic process:
Ketoacidosis is what happens when ketosis goes too far. Ketones build up in your blood, and it becomes acidic. Ketoacidosis can cause a coma or death.
People with diabetes can get ketoacidosis, or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), when they don’t take enough insulin. They can also get DKA when they’re sick or injured, or they don’t get enough fluids and become dehydrated
DKA can also cause symptoms that impersonate alcohol impairment. If a police officer conducts a traffic stop on a diabetic suffering from DKA, the officer will observe a person who is tired, confused, and woozy. People suffering from DKA have dramatically decreased coordination. A person with severe DKA needs immediate medical attention. Police, however, will note a “fruity” smelling breath. Instead of calling for the paramedics, the police will routinely believe the driver has simply consumed way too much wine.
If you are ever with a diabetic driver who is showing indications of hypoglycemia or DKA, please immediately help the driver bring his or her car to a safe stop. If you or a loved one are diabetic, and you feel that there has been a wrongful arrest for DUI, please call our expert DUI attorneys (480) 833-2341.
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