False Arrests: Diabetes, Hypoglycemia, and DUIs

Unfortunately, diabetes affects many Coloradans that must live with the condition daily. Diabetes can affect more than your lifestyle choices, and can result in a person who suffers from diabetes being falsely arrested for a DUI. While being diabetic might seem markedly different from being under the influence of alcohol, law enforcement officials can and do sometimes mistake the two for being similar.

Hypoglycemic Episodes

Diabetics, and even those that are not diabetic, can experience a condition known as hypoglycemia. The Mayo Clinic describes hypoglycemia as occurring when your body’s blood sugar levels fall too low. While an all-too-common side effect of some medications used to treat diabetes, the condition can also befall individuals that are taking other medications, whose bodies overproduce insulin, who suffer from certain hormone deficiencies, and/or who suffer from other forms of chronic illness. When an individual experiences hypoglycemia, they may exhibit common symptoms of intoxication that include:


  • Slurred speech;
  • Impaired coordination;
  • Trouble maintaining balance;
  • General disorientation, among others.


Since people suspected of driving drunk are typically requested to perform several standardized field sobriety tests, exhibiting these types of symptoms can give law enforcement officials probable cause to believe a person may have been operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol because they can impair a person’s ability to successfully complete these subjective tests. Law enforcement officials are supposed to inquire as to whether an individual has any medical conditions that could impair his or her ability to successfully perform these tests, but being pulled over can often catch people off-guard or some police officers may omit the question. For diabetics and others facing roadside sobriety testing, it is helpful to remember that you are not required to perform these tests.

Hypoglycemia and Ketoacidosis

Another popular method for roadside sobriety testing includes the personal breathalyzer test, or PBT. A PBT device measures the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath as the levels present in the breath usually correlate to the amount of alcohol present in the bloodstream. However, hypoglycemia can lead to the development of ketoacidosis, a condition in which acetone can be generated in the mouth. Acetone can cause your breath to smell like alcohol, and is also in the family of chemicals that PBT machines are designed to detect. When a person experiences hypoglycemia that results in the production of acetone, not only can officers potentially smell an odor like alcohol on the person’s breath but a PBT can also register a false elevated reading that results in arrest. Diabetics that are pulled over under suspicion of driving under the influence, as well as anyone facing this situation, should remember that they are not required to perform a PBT and that refusing to do so will not result in an automatic suspension of one’s license.

Legal Assistance

If you are a diabetic that has been falsely charged with driving under the influence either because you had not been drinking or because probable cause for an arrest was not established, it is important to work with an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney during the DUI process to ensure your rights are protected. Contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation where you can discuss the circumstances surrounding your charges and what options might be available to you in your defense.

Related Posts


(image courtesy of Jacob Ufkes)