Are you diabetic? If you are, the chances are that you will experience low blood sugar occasionally. This is something called hypoglycemia. The symptoms of hypoglycemia can be mistaken for drunkenness by someone who didn’t know your condition. Most diabetics are aware of the onset of hypoglycemia, which is often due to a delay in eating. Some people actually experience mild hypoglycemia in the early stages of developing diabetes before they have been diagnosed with the condition.
The reason for referring to diabetes and the symptoms of hypoglycemia is that a sufferer may actually be pulled over and asked to carry out a field sobriety test by a police officer who is assuming that the behavior observed is due to intoxication. Someone who is hypoglycemic is not drunk and this should be confirmed by a test for blood alcohol, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that someone who fails a sobriety test isn’t charged with DUI.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia
The symptoms of hypoglycemia can mirror those of someone who has been drinking alcohol. These symptoms include:
- inability to concentrate
- blurred vision
- irregular heartbeat
It’s not hard to see why someone exhibiting these symptoms might fail a field sobriety test, or even invite suspicion from an observant police officer watching drivers pass by on a highway.
Could a diabetic actually be convicted of DUI even though they weren’t drunk?
Although it might seem unfair or even far-fetched, it is quite possible for a diabetic experiencing hypoglycemia to be charged with DUI despite a zero blood alcohol test. Police officers aren’t always familiar with every possible medical condition and their enthusiasm for getting an arrest may override their need to make certain that the person they had stopped may not have been actually drunk. Some police officers may not take any notice of a driver who tells them that they may be experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia and assume wrongly that they are being given an excuse for failing a sobriety test.
If a diabetic is charged with DUI, it is quite possible that they could then be convicted for the offense unless they seek legal assistance from an experienced DUI attorney. Prosecutors, just like police officers, often let their better judgment get the better of them in their appetite for another conviction.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia do not deserve a conviction for DUI
Police officers must have ‘probable cause’ for stopping a driver on suspicion of intoxication. They can’t just stop someone on suspicion of DUI, for instance, unless the driver has been behaving strangely, e.g. weaving from side to side, driving too slowly or without lights. It may be understandable why an officer may stop a hypoglycemic driver (or anyone experiencing similar medical symptoms even if not hypoglycemic), but it would be expected that they would ask if the driver had any medical conditions in addition to whether they had anything to drink.
The fact that a driver might state that they could be suffering from hypoglycemia or that they were diabetic and hadn’t had anything to drink should be enough to stop an officer from arresting the driver without subjecting them to a sobriety test. If an officer did not ask about potential medical conditions but assumed that the driver’s behavior was due to intoxication, then this can be used by an astute attorney to get the charge dismissed through lack of evidence or that evidence provided by the officer should be suppressed and the charge thrown out. This is also useful to know if you suffered a hypoglycemic attack at the wheel which then led to an accident, as it can mean you aren’t liable and cannot be sued (if you want more information on when you can and can’t be sued, you can check it out here).
Make sure you seek legal help from an experienced criminal defense attorney
This is not to suggest that a hypoglycemic driver is safe to drive a motor vehicle, but hypoglycemia symptoms can develop quite quickly in a diabetic sufferer. The essential legal point is that a charge of DUI cannot and should never be sustained if the evidence suggests that the driver was not intoxicated.
For those who have been subjected to an arrest, remember that you cannot be convicted of a DUI charge unless the evidence is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that you were intoxicated when you were driving. Also, remember that DUI is a criminal offense. It’s enough to contend with a chronic and debilitating condition like diabetes without having to deal with an unjustified criminal conviction, too. Do yourself a favor and contact the Law Firm of Dattan Scott Dattan in Anchorage as soon as you can.