Diabetes and DUI

Posted Friday, May 25, 2007
Categories: Drunk Driving

Diabetes and DUI

By Lawrence Taylor: Los Angeles DUI
Lawyer

This individual (diabetic) will look and act like a drunk driver to
the officer, and will certainly fail any DUI “field sobriety tests”. As
one expert has observed, “Hypoglycemia (abnormally low levels of blood
glucose) is frequently seen in connection with driving error on this
nation’s roads and highways…Even more frequent are unjustified DUIs or
DWIs, stemming from hypoglycemic symptoms that can closely mimic those of
a drunk driver.” From “Hypoglycemia: Driving Under the Influence” in 8(1)
Medical and Toxicological Information Review Sept. 2003.

Breathalyzer will clear him,
right?

Wrong. Ignoring for the moment the inherent inaccuracy and
unreliability of these machines, most suffer from a little-known design
defect: they do not actually measure alcohol! Rather, they use infrared
beams of light which are absorbed by any chemical compound (including
ethyl alcohol) in the breath which contains the “methyl group” in its
molecular structure; the more absorption, the higher the blood-alcohol
reading. The machine is programmed to assume that the compound is
“probably” alcohol. Unfortunately, thousands of compounds containing the
methyl group can register as alcohol. One of these is “acetone”. And a
well-documented by-product of hypoglycemia is a state called
“ketoacidosis”, which causes the production of acetones in the breath. In
other words, the Breathalyzer will read significant levels of alcohol on
a diabetic’s breath where there may be little or none. See, for example,
Brick, “Diabetes, Breath Acetone and Breathalyzer Accuracy: A Case
Study”, 9(1) Alcohol, Drugs and Driving (1993).

Lawrence Taylor’s DUI Blog: Diabetes and
DUI

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