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DUI attorney claims breath tests may read diabetes, not alcohol

Leading California DUI attorney Lawrence Taylor has issued a press release on what he calls the “counterfeit DUI” phenomenon mixing symptoms of drunkenness with symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, occurs frequently in diabetic persons. Symptoms can mirror symptoms of drunkenness including confusion, blurred vision, irritability, nervousness and even slurred speech. Taylor says it is a natural consequence of hypoglycemia for a driver to fail a field sobriety test.

Some experts believe the symptoms are often confused with drunk driving and result in DUI arrests. Taylor says that chemicals given off as a result of hypoglycemia may also confuse a DUI breath test machine. Since the machine measures products that are probably alcohol rather than just alcohol itself, like a blood test, compounds such as acetones caused by ketoacidosis will produce a false positive. 

Ketoacidosis is the process that occurs when a diabetic does not have enough sugar to metabolize for fuel. Instead, the body begins to metabolize fat compounds. Byproducts of this breaking down of fat, called ketones, build up when the process occurs with regularity.

Symptoms of ketoacidosis, ironically, also include fatigue, mental stupor, nausea and breath odor. Many of these symptoms are a further match for drunkenness, leading even a well-meaning officer to confuse the two problems easily. 

Taylor cites information saying that about one in seven drivers suffers from diabetes. This would lead to the natural conclusion that a number of false DUI arrests are made each year by confusing the two conditions. 

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