Diabetes Can be mistaken as False DWI Evidence

Hyperglycemia: high blood sugar/low insulin.  This may cause a false positive on some breath test, or make you smell impaired.  Diabetic Ketoacidosis which occurs usually with type I diabetes, but usually not with (Adult Onset) type II diabetes.  Ketoacidosis develops when your body does not have enough insulin. Without insulin, the body is not able to use glucose and will begin to burn fat for energy, which produces ketones. Ketones are acids that build up in the blood and appear in the urine.  Ketoacidosis can produce a fruity acetone-like smell to the person’s breath.  This fruity smell can be mistaken for alcohol, but most officers should be able to tell the difference. In fact, if the officer detects a fruity smell on the person’s breath at roadside, it would be expected the person would appear to be very ill. The person could be vomiting and exhibiting signs of fatigue, difficulty breathing (shallow), and confusion.  This is a serious medical condition that can result in death.  This person would be appreciably impaired, but not from an impairing substance. Ketoacidosis can be caused by things other than diabetes.  For example one common cause is a low carbohydrate, high protein diet for sustained weight loss, i.e. eating like a caveman or the Atkins diet.  That produces acetone, in small amounts, which is converted to isopropanol by the diabetic.  The intoxilyzer 5000 and the hand held EC/IR II units, cannot distinguish between that and methyl (drinking) alcohol.

Lawrence Taylor, Drunk Driving Defense 3d Edition, page 685. (“…the likelihood exists of auto-generated isopropyl alcohol upon the introduction of carbohydrates in the presence of ketosis and that the Intoxilyzer [DUI breath testing instrument] cannot dependably distinguish ethanol from isopropyl alcohol.”)

There is a tendency of the Intoxilyzer 5000EN to over-report the true BAC of a sample of ethanol in the presence of interferents such as isopropanol, methanol, D-limonene, Dimethyl Sulfone, Castor oil, Adipic acid and Methylsulfonylmethane. With a mixture of both ethanol and another infra-red hydrocarbon, the interferent detection algorithm fails. Medical Issues in DWI Defense, Jan Semenoff (2012).  The Intoxilyzer 5000 is what most police departments use in North Carolina.

Hypoglycemia: low blood sugar.  This may cause you to act impaired, but no false postives on breath tests.  Some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia and alcohol impairment can be similar – slurred speech, dizziness, and disorientation. The onset of hypoglycemia is rapid. Left untreated, it can result in loss of consciousness and/or seizure activity. Unlike signs of al- cohol impairment, the symptoms of hypoglycemia will not dissipate over time. Treatment is required for the person to get better. It should also be noted hypoglycemia does not pro- duce a fruity smell to the breath and will not cause a false positive and/or elevate a breath alcohol test result National Association of District Attorneys.



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