Medical Conditions That Can Be Mistaken For DUI

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

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In evaluating a DUI case, it is important that an attorney be familiar with several medical conditions that can mimic impairment and lead to false arrests, or provide a defense to a DUI charge.

The most common of these are diabetes, hypoglycemia, sleep apnea, and heart conditions. When combined with alcohol consumption (or in some cases, without) these conditions can cause the person to experience many symptoms similar to those caused by acute alcohol intoxication. A motorist experiencing these symptoms could be at risk of being pulled over and arrested for DUI, even if they have not consumed any alcohol.

An experienced DUI lawyer will know how to evaluate whether or not your condition is relevant in your particular case. If your medical condition is relevant, they will also know what questions need to be asked at trial. They will also be familiar with expert witnesses with whom to consult regarding your defense.

Diabetes And DUI Defense

People with diabetes may suffer from states of impaired consciousness, confusion, seizures, and loss of coordination caused by a low blood sugar level. These symptoms can be similar to those caused by intoxication. A person with insulin dependent diabetes may also experience a severe drop in blood sugar level if they miss or delay a meal. If this happens, the person may have slurred speech, confusion, impaired coordination and loss of consciousness. A police officer may mistakenly believe that this person is intoxicated and arrest them for DUI.

A person with diabetes can experience an insulin reaction due to strenuous exercise or stress. This will cause their blood sugar level to drop precipitously causing them to become disoriented, confused and possibly even comatose. When a person with diabetes consumes alcohol, their blood sugar level will drop even further, causing further disorientation and confusion. A police officer engaging with a person exhibiting these symptoms could suspect that the person is intoxicated due to alcohol or other substances.

A diabetic who drinks alcohol may experience severely low blood sugar levels. This can cause confusion, seizures, coma and even death if left untreated. A person with insulin dependent diabetes or reactive hypoglycemia should never mix their medications with alcohol.

Individuals with diabetes are not the only ones at risk of experiencing an insulin reaction. If a person has not eaten for several hours or if they are starving, this can also cause their blood sugar to drop precipitously, causing them to become disoriented and confused. This could cause someone to perform poorly on field sobriety tests and be arrested for DUI.

Hypoglycemia And DUI Defense

People with hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can experience a wide range of symptoms that can be mistaken for alcohol intoxication. These include shakiness, dizziness, confusion, difficulty speaking, and loss of coordination. A person with hypoglycemia who is suspected of DUI may have a blood alcohol level that is lower than the legal limit for alcohol intoxication. A police officer may mistakenly believe that this person is inebriated and arrest them.

A person with hypoglycemia is also at risk of experiencing a low blood sugar level if they have not eaten in several hours. This could cause the person to become disoriented, confused and even pass out. If a person with hypoglycemia consumes alcohol, their blood sugar level will drop even further, causing further disorientation and confusion. A police officer engaging with a person exhibiting these symptoms may suspect that the person is intoxicated due to alcohol or other substances.

Sleep Apnea And DUI Defense

People with sleep apnea can stop breathing throughout the night due to airway obstruction caused by relaxation of the throat muscles. This renders air unable to get in and carbon dioxide unable to get out. As a result their blood will accumulate carbon dioxide which can make them feel dizzy, disoriented, or intoxicated after awakening even when they are sober.

Sleep apnea can also be exacerbated by sleep-restrictive life and work patterns, alcohol consumption and certain medications. A person with untreated sleep apnea may suffer from chronic fatigue, severe headaches, irritability and memory problems. A person who suffers from sleep apnea who has been stopped and arrested for DUI may have a viable defense against the charge.

People with this condition may also be at risk of an insulin reaction when they haven’t eaten in several hours, especially when combined with alcohol consumption. They may have a drop in blood sugar level that can be mistaken for intoxication once they awaken from their sleep, even if they have consumed alcohol under the legal limit or no alcohol at all.

Heart Conditions And DUI Defense

A person with heart conditions may present with symptoms similar to those of drunkenness. These include problems with coordination, breathing difficulty, and excessive sweating. A person suffering from heart failure may also experience a drop in blood pressure that can be mistaken for intoxication. This could lead to an arrest for DUI if the police officer is not aware of their condition.

If a person is suffering from heart condition or any other medical condition that causes their blood pressure to plummet or their airways to become obstructed, it may prove lethal if combined with alcohol or other medications. Anyone who is suffering from a heart condition should never mix their medications with alcohol.

Other Medical Conditions That Mimic Intoxication

People who suffer from epilepsy, schizophrenia and Tourette’s Syndrome may also experience disorientation after consuming even small quantities of alcohol. In addition, high fevers or taking certain medications can cause a temporary loss of feeling, coordination and balance that could be mistaken for drunkenness. In these cases, a DUI attorney may be able to argue that the person was not actually intoxicated and should not have been arrested for DUI.

Defending DUI Cases Due To Medical Conditions

If you have been arrested for DUI because officers believe you were intoxicated due to a medical condition, it is important to contact a DUI attorney. Our experienced Knoxville DUI lawyers will know how to evaluate your case and determine if your condition is relevant. If they determine that you have a defense based on a medical condition, it will be important to begin documenting that medical condition as early as possible. For example, presenting certified medical records to the court or an opposing attorney could bolster your defense, resulting in a dismissal or other favorable conclusions to your charges without the necessity of a trial. Contact Barnes and Fersten Law Firm today for a free consultation.

Attorney At Law, Managing Partner

Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUIcriminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.