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How does being a diabetic impact an OUI charge?

Diabetes can easily be confused as a DUI by police officers. A high or low blood sugar can cause a diabetic to experience symptoms that mimic alcohol intoxication. Additionally the use of insulin and how a diabetic breaks down alcohol can cause falsely high breath test results. It is important for anyone with diabetes to understand how their symptoms may affect a DUI investigation and how they can defend themselves against criminal charges.

Diabetes is a medical condition that affects how the body breaks down sugars and carbohydrates. A person with diabetes takes medication or insulin to maintain a certain blood sugar range. Many factors can affect a person’s blood sugar including hormones, exercise, and food consumption. When a diabetic’s blood sugar goes too low or too high they can exhibit symptoms can be mistake for alcohol intoxication.

Similar Symptoms

If the diabetic is experiencing a low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) they may experience symptoms such as:

  • Blurry vision
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Sudden nervousness
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Headache
  • Shaking/unsteady on feet
  • Trouble thinking clearly or concentrating

These symptoms can easily affect how a person drives. These symptoms may also affect a person’s performance on the field sobriety tests. For example someone who is shaky and having trouble thinking clearly may find it very difficult to stand on one leg for 30 seconds. Unlike alcohol consumption a low blood sugar will not improve over time without treatment and can cause loss of consciousness if not treated promptly.

A high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) may cause the diabetic to experience symptoms such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach pain
  • Fruity breath odor
  • A very dry mouth

The symptoms of a high blood sugar may cause the person to have a dry mouth that may lead the officer to believe the person’s speech is slurred. Additionally the fruity breath odor can be confused for the odor of alcohol. Combine these symptoms with vomiting and a person with a high blood sugar begins to look a lot like someone under the influence of alcohol.

The Breath Test Results may be wrong

Breath testing equipment is designed to measure blood alcohol concentration. However a diabetic experiencing a high blood sugar event may present with acetone in their breath, which the machine may incorrectly register as a high alcohol content. Additionally diabetics who are insulin dependent metabolize alcohol differently which may also lead to misleading breath test results.

Understanding how diabetes can be confused with alcohol intoxication is vital for a diabetic and their attorney. Distinguishing between symptoms of their disease and intoxication can mean the difference between a conviction or acquittal of a DUI charge.

If you have questions regarding whether medical evidence of being a diabetic can impact an OUI charge, feel free to contact Attorney DelSignore at 781-686-5924.