Can a diabetic be pulled over for a DUI when he hasn’t touched a drop?

DWI or “Driving While Intoxicated” is defined in Springfield Missouri as operating any motor vehicle on a public way with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. This is decreased to 0.04% for commercial drivers. Additional provisions have also been made to account for drivers who are impaired by other drugs, including illegal narcotics, prescription and over the counter medications. § 577.010.2, RSMo 2015. Conviction for driving while intoxicated results in one having eight points put on their license, as well as punishments ranging from a 90-day license suspension to a two-year prison sentence, depending on whether or not the defendant has previous DWI convictions. § 302.302.1, RSMo 2015, § 577.012.1, RSMo 2015.

However, it is important to note that all of these Missouri statutes relate only to intoxication, and do not apply to involuntary medical conditions. This is particularly relevant for diabetics, whose unregulated blood sugar levels can result in a condition known as “hypoglycemia.” This condition results when a person with diabetes has an extremely low blood sugar level. It can come on suddenly without warning, and with many people it can cause conditions similar to intoxication. This includes slurred speech, blurred vision, reduced motor skills, and disorientation. Hypoglycemia can also cause a condition known as ketoacidosis, which results in the production of acetone in the body. This acetone smells like alcohol in the breath, and can even be detected as alcohol by some BAC testing machines (Hypoglycemia, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, (Oct. 2008))

This means that a diabetic suffering from hypoglycemia may both appear to be intoxicated and may, in simple field tests, test positive for alcohol. Fortunately, hypoglycemia is a well-known medical phenomenon and can be quickly confirmed by any hospital. Unfortunately, the necessary testing equipment is all but unheard of in most police stations. This unfortunately means that many persons suffering from hypoglycemia are arrested for a DWI they did not commit. However, the law in Springfield Missouri acknowledges this problem and does not permit convictions if the defendant can prove they were not intoxicated, but instead suffering from hypoglycemia. Any diabetic arrested for driving while intoxicated but suffering from hypoglycemia should immediately contact their legal counsel, since blood tests can quickly confirm that a person is simply suffering from unusually low blood sugar levels. It is important to get these tests quickly, since one’s blood sugar level will change over time, thus making it difficult to prove that one was not intoxicated.