Skip to Content
Free Consultation

Your Diabetes Can Mimic Signs of Intoxication


There’s the old saying that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck. When it comes to establishing suspicion that someone is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, police officers operate under a similar logic. But what if someone is impaired not by any legal or illegal substance, but complications from a medical condition?

Diabetes is one such condition. Both major types of this disease (Type 1 and Type 2) can cause someone to experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). When serious deviations from a normal blood sugar (glucose) range occur, they can present various symptoms that look a lot like intoxication. This can result in a DUI arrest, especially if the police officer doesn’t know that a driver is diabetic.

To be clear, those experiencing symptoms of either hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia require immediate medical attention. Excessively high or low blood sugar levels are dangerous and can cause irreparable injury or even death.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

People with Type 1 diabetes are at a greater risk of hypoglycemia than people with Type 2. When someone has Type 1, they are constantly trying to balance their blood glucose levels with diet and medication. When someone with Type 1 doesn’t have enough glucose in their system, their body can enter hypoglycemia.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Shaking
  • Sweating

Many of these symptoms are similar to those of someone intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. Police officers are primed to suspect someone is intoxicated rather than experiencing the symptoms of hypoglycemia, so someone with diabetes in immediate need of medical attention could end up getting arrested for DUI.

Symptoms of Hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia is when blood glucose levels are too high. With diabetes, this happens when someone doesn’t have enough insulin in their system or their body becomes insulin-resistant. Although both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics are susceptible to this complication, a person with Type 2 diabetes who is unaware of their disease or poorly manages it may be at a greater risk.

Symptoms of hyperglycemia may include the following:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Slow response time
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fruity smell on breath
  • Nausea and vomiting

As with the symptoms of hypoglycemia, these symptoms can also mimic those of intoxication.

Can I Use Diabetes as a Defense Against DUI?

Police officers are not always primed to notice the signs that a driver is suffering from diabetes complications. If you were arrested for DUI despite suffering from the effects of a diabetic episode, an experienced DUI attorney can help you protect your rights and avoid a DUI conviction.

If you need legal help to defend against unfair allegations of DUI, Orr Law Firm can help. We are top-rated DUI lawyers who can provide the dedicated legal support you need during this difficult time.

Learn more about our services during a free consultation. Call (303) 747-4247 now to get started.