Medical conditions police could mistake for signs of intoxication

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2019 | Uncategorized

When people get behind the wheel drunk, they are at a significantly increased risk of causing a crash that injures them or someone else. Unfortunately, that risk alone isn’t enough to deter people from drinking and driving. Law enforcement officers have to actively patrol to check for those driving under the influence to help keep the roads safe. They pull people over based on driving and then perform field sobriety and chemical testing as necessary.

As with many aspects of law enforcement, identifying drunk drivers depends on an officer’s understanding of averages and typical bodily responses. Obviously, impairment and intoxication are different for different people. What may leave one person drunk or incapable of driving may barely affect someone else. It is also possible for a person to have symptoms or conditions that look like the stereotypical warning signs of impairment.

When officers don’t understand the medical science involved or don’t believe a person about their medical condition, it is possible for those complying with the law to wind up arrested for impaired driving. Certain medical conditions may increase your risk of false allegations due to confusion on the part of law enforcement officers.

Diabetes, especially when unmanaged, can look like impairment

Diabetes is a very common medical condition, particularly type 2 diabetes which develops later in life. One of the hallmarks of type 2 diabetes is a condition known as ketoacidosis, which occurs when a person’s blood sugar has not received proper maintenance.

Effectively, the body will produce waste products, including acetone which gets expelled through the lungs. That acetone can result in a false positive on certain breath test units, particularly older systems. Diabetes and low blood sugar could give people headaches, slurred speech or difficulty in walking gracefully, all of which could lead to a failed field sobriety test.

Traumatic brain injuries can result in motion issues and slurred speech

Alcohol is dangerous, in part, because it affects your brain, but it isn’t the only thing that can affect your mental acuity and ability to drive. Many people with traumatic brain injuries recover to a point where they can begin driving again.

However, their symptoms may also include everything from difficulty enunciating their words to problems with balance and mobility, depending on the location of the injury in their brain and the severity of their symptoms. Unfortunately, if officers don’t believe an individual self-reporting a brain injury, they may arrest someone who has done nothing wrong.

There are other, far less common medical conditions that could result in someone falsely accused of drunk driving. Auto-brewery syndrome, for example, is a rare condition where your body produces ethanol, leading to failed chemical tests.

Those with serious medical conditions that result in criminal charges will need to defend themselves against the potential consequences of a conviction. Building a case based on your medical background involves proving your medical condition and challenging the breath test or field sobriety test as a result.