Diabetes and Blood Alcohol Level

If a diabetic is experiencing hypoglycemia, they can appear drunk and even wrongly fail a breath test for DUI.

There may be no group of people with a higher risk of wrongful DUI arrest than diabetics. Depending on the form of diabetes, many diabetics have the potential to go into a state of hypoglycemia, or dangerously low blood sugar. During this state, they can appear drunk and even fail a breath test for DUI—even if they are actually sober. 

How can a diabetic fail a breath test?

During hypoglycemia, your body may enter a state called ketoacidosis. This is a metabolic state where the body gets energy by breaking down its fat reserves (normally, the body gets energy from blood sugar). This state produces a high level of compounds called ketones in the blood.

When you take a breath test, the testing device uses infrared light to scan the chemical composition of your breath. It’s looking for ethyl alcohol, but it also picks up ketones by accident. A high ketone level can cause you to get a falsely high BAC result. The same thing can happen to people who eat a low carb, high protein diet.

Other Complications

For a diabetic, there are complicating factors:

  • Diabetics experiencing hypoglycemia may seem disoriented, they may stagger, and they may have a hard time speaking. This can be mistaken for drunkenness.
  • If you consumed alcohol, you are at higher risk of hypoglycemia. So even if you drank a very small amount, your breath test result could be very high.

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