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Diabetic Symptoms Can Result in a DWI Arrest


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 37.3 million Americans have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and nearly 100 million more are prediabetic. As one of the most widespread diseases in the U.S., the implications of poorly controlled diabetes can go beyond its impact on a person’s health – there can be legal consequences as well.

Specifically, a person experiencing symptoms of complications resulting from diabetes may exhibit symptoms that a police officer would associate with intoxication. Unfortunately, this can result in a DWI arrest when someone may actually require immediate medical attention.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that affects how your body processes sugar. It occurs when your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it does produce effectively.

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. With Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, usually because of an autoimmune reaction. This type of diabetes typically develops in children or young adults and requires daily injections of insulin to manage blood sugar levels.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common than Type 1 and occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use it effectively. It is often a result of poor diet and lifestyle choices in conjunction with genetic factors and/or other diseases. Type 2 diabetes is typically managed through diet, exercise, and medication.

Hypoglycemia vs. Hyperglycemia

Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia are two different forms of abnormal blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia (often experienced by people living with Type 1 diabetes) is a medical condition where there is too little glucose in the bloodstream, while hyperglycemia (often experienced by people living with Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is too much glucose in the bloodstream.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia can include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Hunger
  • Pale skin
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty concentrating

Symptoms of hyperglycemia can include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent urination or urgent need to urinate
  • Excessive thirst

Unfortunately, both sets of symptoms can easily be misinterpreted as signs of intoxication by a police officer who already suspects a driver is intoxicated. Observing these symptoms can provide the police officer with probable cause to arrest someone for DWI.

Diabetes Can Cause You to Fail a Breathalyzer Test

Unfortunately, diabetes can cause you to fail a breathalyzer test even if you haven't had anything to drink. This is because people living with diabetes may produce acetone in their breath when their blood sugar levels become abnormal. Acetone’s chemical makeup is similar to alcohol and can be detected by a breathalyzer.

If you fail a breathalyzer test due to acetone in your breath, there are steps you can take to prove that the reading was not caused by alcohol consumption. You can request a blood test to determine the level of alcohol in your system, which can also reveal if your blood sugar levels indicate you were hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic at the time of your arrest. Additionally, if you were not aware of your condition prior to taking the test, getting a diabetes diagnosis and providing any medical documentation to support it can help you defend against criminal charges for DWI.

Before engaging with police investigators or agreeing to any tests, however, always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you defend against a potential or existing DWI charge based on diabetic symptoms.

Do You Require Legal Assistance?

The Alband Law Firm understands that a conviction for a false accusation of a DWI can have life-altering consequences. Our experienced legal team is dedicated to providing comprehensive defense for individuals who have been wrongfully accused and are facing serious penalties like jail time, loss of license, and expensive fines.

We recognize that a police officer’s interpretation of what constitutes a DWI offense may be incorrect. This can occur in cases where a person is suffering from diabetic complications, and their symptoms are misinterpreted as intoxication. If you have been wrongfully accused of driving while intoxicated due to the misidentification of diabetic symptoms, The Alband Law Firm is ready to provide you with the legal defense you need.

For more information, contact us online and request a legal consultation.