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Diabetes and DUI

Contrary to popular belief, police officers have no inherent skill and little training in detecting levels of intoxication. In fact, they are psychologically predisposed in a drunk driving investigation to “see” what they expect to see, disregarding any alternative explanations.

Let’s take a look at one of those possibilities…..As everyone knows, diabetics commonly experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). And what are the symptoms? Slow and slurred speech, poor balance, impaired motor control, staggering, drowsiness, flushed face, disorientation — in other words, the classic symptoms of alcohol intoxication. The diabetic will look and act like a drunk driver to the officer, and will certainly fail any DUI “field sobriety tests”. As one expert has observed:

Hypoglycemia (abnormally low levels of blood glucose) is frequently seen in connection with driving error on this nation’s roads and highways…Even more frequent are unjustified DUIs or DWIs, stemming from hypoglycemic symptoms that can closely mimic those of a drunk driver. “Hypoglycemia: Driving Under the Influence”, 8(1)Medical and Toxicological Information Review Sept. 2003.

But, of course, a breathalyzer will clear him, right?

Wrong. Ignoring for the moment the inherent inaccuracy and unreliability of these machines, most suffer from a little-known design defect: they do not actually measure alcohol! Rather, they use infrared beams of light which are absorbed by any chemical compound (including ethyl alcohol) in the breath which contains the “methyl group” in its molecular structure; the more absorption, the higher the blood-alcohol reading. The machine is programmed to assume that the compound is “probably” alcohol.

Unfortunately, thousands of compounds containing the methyl group can register as alcohol. One of these is acetone. And a well-documented by-product of hypoglycemia is the production of acetones in the breath. In other words, the Breathalyzer will read significant levels of alcohol on a diabetic’s breath where there may be little or none. See, for example, Brick, “Diabetes, Breath Acetone and Breathalyzer Accuracy: A Case Study”, 9(1) Alcohol, Drugs and Driving (1993).

But this rarely happens, right?

Fact: roughly one in seven sober drivers on the road suffers from diabetes.

 

A former Marine, U.C. Berkeley and UCLA Law School graduate, L.A. Deputy D.A. and Fulbright Professor of Law, Lawrence Taylor is the author of over 30 articles and 12 books, including the standard textbook on DUI litigation, “Drunk Driving Defense”, 7th edition (co-authored with Steven Oberman) and “California Drunk Driving Defense”, 4th edition. Over the past 34 years he has proven a popular lecturer on trial tactics and techniques at over 200 legal seminars in 41 states. He was one of the original 10 founders of the National College for DUI Defense, later serving as its Dean. On July 25, 2002, at Harvard Law School, Mr. Taylor was presented with the College’s “Lifetime Achievement Award”.

Mr. Taylor currently limits the practice of his 5-attorney Los Angeles DUI law firm to drunk driving defense exclusively. He may be contacted at 888-777-3449, or his website may be viewed at www.duicentral.com.  His firm  maintains an extensive DUI resource website at The Drunk Driving Law Center, and his popular www.DUIblog.com continues to be one of the most-visited DUI sites on the internet since 2004.

About Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor is one of the most respected DUI defense attorneys in the country. With over 43 years experience in DUI defense, he has lectured to attorneys at over 200 seminars in 41 states. An original founder and former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Mr. Taylor's book "Drunk Driving Defense" has been the best-selling textbook on the subject for 31 years and is now in its 7th edition. He is today one of only 5 DUI attorneys in California who is Board-certified as a DUI defense specialist. A former Marine and graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (1966) and the UCLA School of Law (1969), Lawrence Eric Taylor served as deputy public defender and deputy district attorney in Los Angeles before entering private practice. He was the trial judge's legal advisor in People vs Charles Manson, was Supreme Court counsel in the Onion Field murder case and was retained by the Attorney General of Montana as an independent Special Prosecutor to conduct a one-year grand jury probe of governmental corruption. Turning to teaching, Mr. Taylor served on the faculty of Gonzaga University School of Law, where he was voted Professor of the Year, was invited to be Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University Law School, and was finally appointed Fulbright Professor of Law at Osaka University in Japan. Mr. Taylor continues to limit the practice of his 5-attorney Southern California law firm to DUI defense exclusively. With offices in Long Beach, Irvine, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Riverside and Carlsbad, Mr. Taylor and his firm of DUI defense attorneys may be reached through their website at www.duicentral.com or by telephone at (800) 777-3349.

If you would like to contact the author, please visit: http://www.duicentral.com/


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