Driving While Under the Influence of . . . Diabetes

Many people arrested and charged with DUI in Tempe and the surrounding areas of Arizona elect to take the path of least resistance.  This decision is usually influenced by the misconception that a first-time DUI offense is “no big deal” and that the evidence used in DUI cases is based on reliable science.  These mistaken assumptions have done considerable damage to the reputation, career and bank accounts of many people who could have successfully challenged their DUI conviction.

The penalties for DUI cases can have a serious long-term impact on your future along with immediate consequences like the loss of your freedom and driving privileges.  The evidence in these cases also is far from infallible.  There are many reasons that officer observations before and after a stop, field sobriety tests and breath tests can be challenged for being an unreliable indicator of driving under the influence.  Diabetes is an example of a medical condition that can easily be mistaken for alcohol impairment.

The Unfortunate Facts of the Disease

A staggering 26 million people throughout the U.S. suffer from diabetes..  Further, another 1.9 million people are diagnosed with diabetes annually according to the American Diabetes Association.  Based on the rate that diabetes is increasing, the organization estimates that 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. will suffer from the condition by 2050.  Cumulatively, this data demonstrates that an enormous number of drivers travel the roads of Arizona and the country despite suffering from the condition.

The symptoms and manifestations of diabetes can emulate alcohol intoxication in a variety of ways.  Individuals who suffer from diabetes frequently suffer from low blood sugar, which is referred to as hypoglycemia.  People experiencing low blood sugar levels can exhibit many of the “indicia of intoxication” used by police officers as probable cause for a DUI arrest.  These symptoms include lack of coordination, drowsiness, diminished motor skills and slurred speech.  When a police officer observes these symptoms after pulling over a motorist, the officer often will request that the driver participate in field sobriety tests (FSTs).  As one might imagine, these same physical effects caused by hypoglycemia also will make successful performance of FSTs difficult.

What a Breath Test Really Focuses On

While motorists might assume that breath testing devices provide more “objective” evidence so intoxication can be distinguished from diabetes, the exact opposite is true.  Diabetes can cause artificially inflated breath test results.  The breath testing device used by police officers employs infrared light that is absorbed by chemical compounds contained in the alveolar breath expelled from the deep lungs.  When a motorist suffers from diabetes, he or she often develops a condition referred to as “”ketoacidosis,” which causes acetone in the breath.  Breath testing devices can fail to accurately distinguish between ethyl alcohol from a beverage containing alcohol and acetone.

The bottom line is that someone who suffers from diabetes has a higher probability of being arrested for DUI even if the individual has consumed no alcohol.  The impact of diabetes on alcohol screening methods can impair their accuracy.  Low carb diets can have a similar impact because they can cause hypoglycemia type symptoms.  Further, those on Adkins diets and similar ultra-low carb diets produce ketones that also can be mistaken for ethyl alcohol by breath testing devices.

How You Need to Act

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you should disclose your medical condition before submitting to FSTs or breath testing.  Experienced Maricopa County DUI defense lawyer Mathew Lopez carefully evaluates every aspect of his client’s interaction with a law enforcement officer from the time the officer begins following his client to the time he is booked at the police station.  He is prepared to customize your defense based on the specific facts and circumstances of your Tempe DUI case.

Mathew Lopez Law, PLLC represents individuals facing the full range of alcohol and drug impaired driving charges throughout Arizona.  We offer free consultations, so we can advise you of your rights and options.  Call experienced Tempe DUI defense lawyer Matthew Lopez today at 602.980.1987 or complete a case inquiry form.