Diabetes Defense to DUI in Georgia

Posted by Richard Lawson | Aug 30, 2016 | 1 Comment

DUI cases have become some of the most complex cases in the criminal justice system. There are numerous challenges that can be brought up from lack of probable cause for the initial stop to the testing procedures for blood samples. One of the defenses that can be used when charged with a DUI is a medical argument. Symptoms of a diabetic's sugar dropping can mimic the effects of alcohol intoxication. Police officers have mistakenly assumed a driver was intoxicated when in fact they just had diabetes and were experiencing dangerously low or high sugar levels.

When pulling someone over for a suspected DUI, police officers are trained to look for slow or slurred speech, lack of balance, impaired motor abilities, and also whether the driver appears flushed, drowsy, or disorientated. Ethyl alcohol is what is found in alcoholic beverages may be tested by a breathalyzer. These same signs can also be seen in a person who has diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body does not produce or properly use insulin. A diabetic may experience two different conditions from time to time: hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. The effects of hyperglycemia are much different than the results of hypoglycemia.

  • Hyperglycemia, also known as high blood glucose, occurs when blood sugar concentrations are elevated. The signs of this condition include feeling thirsty, constant urination, and a dry mouth. Hyperglycemia does not cause symptoms that are similar to intoxication.
  • Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, occurs when blood sugar concentrations fall below a level necessary to properly support the body's need for energy.

When a diabetic person experiences hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar levels, the symptoms are very similar to intoxication. They may have slurred speech, poor balance, impaired motor abilities, and may appear drowsy, flushed, or disorientated. A person experiencing hypoglycemia may have physical signs that mimic intoxication, but it will not affect the results of a breath test for alcohol.

Furthermore, diabetics who have hyperglycemia can develop ketoacidosis, which can cause acetone in the mouth. A person that takes a Breathalyzer that has developed ketoacidosis will give a high BAC (blood alcohol content) reading because the breath-testing device mistakes the acetone for ethyl alcohol. Therefore, a person experiencing hypoglycemia will most likely fail a sobriety test given by a police officer.

If someone with diabetes does consume alcohol, it can quickly lead to hypoglycemia. Taking insulin or other antidiabetic agents are designed to reduce glucose levels, therefore, even just one drink can be enough for a person to mimic the actions of an individual who is intoxicated.

Because the symptoms of diabetes and intoxication are so similar, it is common that a person will appear drunk even though they may not have been drinking. If you are a diabetic facing a DUI charges, contact the Law Offices of Richard Lawson to talk with one of his DUI lawyers. Our experienced lawyers will be able to evaluate your medical history to help you build a strong defense. Your Blood alcohol content does not take into account whether you have diabetes. Many people are falsely accused of driving under the influence when they are instead suffering from dangerously high or low blood sugar. Call our office today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


Sarah Reply

Posted Aug 30, 2016 at 18:12:11

Fascinating article. I have a family member that has Diabetes and it is helpful to know these effects can mimic that of a DUI!

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Georgia DUI Defense Attorneys

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