There are a lot of complaints about problems with field sobriety tests — but the one that often strikes a chord of fear in many people’s hearts is that they’ll fail a roadside sobriety test because they’re sick, not drunk.
Diabetes, which is known to exist in around 29 million people living in the United States, can mimic the symptoms of alcohol intoxication whether the diabetic is too high or too low — and attacks can come on suddenly and with little warning.
In both situations, whether the diabetic is hypoglycemic (suffering from low blood sugar levels) or hyperglycemic (suffering from dangerously high blood sugar levels), he or she may be disoriented and unable to respond clearly to instructions even in the early stages of the situation. Worse, someone suffering from hyperglycemia may actually reek of alcohol — an odor that’s being produced by their own body as it breaks down fat cells in an effort to survive, creating natural ethanol.
The confusion, lack of concentration, irritability, and altered mental state of either end of the spectrum are enough to convince many a police officer that they’re dealing with a drunk driver, not a diabetic. By the time they find out differently, there’s every possibility that the diabetic may even get violent — which is another reaction of the brain to being starved of its necessary nutrition. From there, it’s not far from a coma and death.
This makes it particularly important for diabetics to carry with them their blood glucose meters, so they can test their sugar if pulled over for erratic driving. They may also want to carry a medic alert bracelet and a doctor’s letter, if necessary, in order to alert police to the possibility that they’re sick.
However, there are many people out there who don’t know that they’re diabetic, and they may end up being pulled over for suspected drunk driving simply because they skipped lunch and drove their blood sugar too low before they got home, or they drank a Coke in the car and sent their blood sugar spiraling upward.
If you failed a field sobriety test, but know you weren’t drinking, contact an attorney immediately for assistance. It’s possible you have an undiagnosed diabetic condition that was affecting you. For more information on how our firm approaches breathalyzer and field sobriety test cases, please visit our page.