09-02-2012 02:07 AM
I am putting this post out to ask a question about if or how my blood alcohol concentration (BAC) could be affected by my Type 1 diabetes and uncontrolled short or long term sugars. I know all the details about how a breathalyzer will show very unreliable numbers in any diabetic for mostly low blood sugar scenarios. Due to that fact when I was pulled over I specifically stated to the officers that I was a type 1 diabetic and that my blood sugar was low and dropping but still had to blow into one of their roadside breath sticks. It measured a very high number which I already knew was falsely inflated from ketoacidosis...
I have had Type 1 diabetes for 31 years and through my early twenties where I never seemed to have any problems with drinking and diabetes. I know my limits and know what the consequences to my health will be. I never thought that this would happen but I live in AZ where it is a no tolerance state and it is my own fault. I have been very unregulated for the past few months due to stresses of things that are going on in my life. I recently have had very low and somewhat high readings and it is mostly due to not being on a standard diet and cheating (eating a high carb snack that would cause a spike up) when I started to feel somewhat low blood sugars.
This evening in question my wife and I were supposed to meet for dinner at about 8:00pm and took my shots (16 units Novolog/20 units Lantus) at about 7:45 before I planned to leave. I should have not taken the novolog at all because she could not make it and I didn't really eat any dinner. I wasted time for a couple of hours and I did eat half a Twix bar somewhere around 9:00pm. At 10:30pm I decided to go to a local restaurant/brewery that I like their food. I placed my to go order and got to talking to a married couple in their 80's that were sitting next to me. My food was done and boxed up to go and I sat and talked for another 45 minutes while having three beers. I left the restaurant at midnight and rather than go home I stopped off at one other place. I did not drink on purpose at the second place and left there at about 1:50am. I was completely coherent and aware of everything on the drive home (about 5 miles) and knew that I did need to eat something of substance because I could feel the alcohol starting to lower my already normal to low blood sugar.
I was pulled over about three miles from my house and asked some normal traffic stop questions..and I mentioned to the officer that I was a type 1 diabetic had not eaten and I was feeling a low blood sugar coming on. My to go food was sitting on my passenger seat still in the bag which he did see. He stated that I could not eat anything and he wanted me to do the normal field sobriety tests. I did get out of the car and did the eye light tests (which I found out now I was not required) and was asked to blow into a breathalyzer stick (which I denied). After saying that I would lose my licensed for a year and be arrested I reluctantly did and it showed over a .14 BAC which is definitely grounds for a DUI in AZ. I was arrested and taken to the hospital to have the blood drawn. I know that I was getting more and more anxious and short-tempered but not from any alcohol issues but from my dropping blood sugar. Even though I asked they did not take any blood sugar test at the hospital. I mentioned numerous times that i was diabetic and that I felt that my blood sugar was getting low but I was told by the officer "when are you going to stop stalling". My blood was drawn and we left the hospital. Finally on the way to the police station after repeating many times that I was feeling sick from not eating and asking for anything he had (candy, sugar packets, anything that he could give me to eat) the officer did pull over and call the fire department to take my blood sugar reading. They came out and on a portable meter it was 81. They said that was in the normal acceptable range and proceeded to leave. Normal for a person without diabetes. I told the fireman that did the blood sugar test that I was already having a diabetic episode and that 81 was low for me. I knew that by the time everything was done at the police station if I did not have a chance to eat it would be very low. After 31 years of being a type 1 diabetic I know my body and I was definitely not doing well. I was processed at the police station, and although I was not aware of everything there because it had been about eight hours (and three beers) with no food, no one seemed to care. I was placed in a solitary cell and told to wait until a cab arrived to pick me up. I finally arrived home by cab at about 5:15am and took my blood sugar... it was 51!
I know that this was all my fault by not eating at the right time and if I could have done anything differently believe me I would so. I was fully alert and aware of everything and on my way home to eat the dinner that I had in the car when this happened. I don't need any lectures. I have not gotten the blood test results back on my BAC but for three pint beers over four hours and my height and weight that breathalyzer stick was completely off. It should have been below the .08 AZ states is DUI which is still bad but not anywhere near the .14+ that the breathalyzer read.
My question is after searching and reading about how diabetic ketoacidosis will skew any breathalyzer... does either short term lows or long term uncontrolled diabetes have any effect on a Blood Alcohol Content if measured from a blood sample?
The laws here are very strict and depending on what value that comes back from the tests could mean a complete life change for me. I am 45 and one wrong night where I could / should have just driven home, did a blood sugar test, ate some food and went to sleep could destroy my life. I am not trying to blame diabetes for a DUI, but I just want to know if it could have any effect on the actual blood alcohol reading in my blood. I do not get the tests back for possibly another 30 days.
Helpful Response Given! Go to this response.
09-02-2012 09:00 AM
you were right to take the breathalyzer. a good lawyer could probably get you off, even without diabetes, by proving they are not always accurate!, especially with Type 1 diabetes. But I do not know of any research that says this. The police are right in saying an 81 is not a low blood sugar, but they should have provided you something to eat. I'm guessing you didn't have your meter or anything identifying you as a Type 1 diabetic on you??
What I do know is that driving with a low blood sugar can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. Many of us test before getting behind the wheel, and most of us would NEVER taking 15 units of novolog without the food being right in front of us.
You don't want lectures, but you come here for the first time looking to get off from a DUI with diabetes that is NOT in good control. We would love to see you here asking for help with your Type 1 diabetes.
09-02-2012 02:39 PM
I googled "breathalyzer ketones and found some articles suggesting that ketones can throw off a breathalyzer test, albeit they were more from the standpoint of legal defense than scientific papers.
Calling 1-800-DIABETES might be a good way for the original poster to contact the ADA. They do have a library of documents that lawyers can use in defending clients against discrimination that might prove helpful.
Other than that, I want to say I heartily agree with you!
"Molly" (aka mollythed)
Type 2 diabetes diagnosed in 1995, now managed with Lantus, Novolog and Metformin; diet and exercise.
My late husband had diabetes. My three adult sons also have type 2 diabetes.
09-02-2012 04:21 PM - edited 09-02-2012 04:27 PM
Thank you for the advise. I have been a type 1 diabetic since I was 14 years old and have had all the issues that everyone on this forum have had... I feel that although I lack exercising or much physical fitness now I think that other than the last few months I am in control of it. I was just in the wrong place at the exact wrong time.. 10 minutes either way and I would not be posting about this.
I know that I am in for a tough road with this and AZ is overly aggressive on 1st time DUI. I learned my lesson already from the one night that I went through and I cannot stop thinking about what is ahead for me. I have not had anything more than a photo radar speeding ticket in the last 7 years (yes AZ is one of the few states that still has that also) and now this is just overwhelming.
I have talked to a few lawyers and have obtained a copy of the police report that was completely fabricated for obvious reasons but that is their job... to get a conviction on something they do every day. I do not agree with it and I wish that the police could be given a memo to understand that with a diabetic there are many other factors that go into what they are seeing at the scene (besides alcohol). The word diabetes or diabetic is not even mentioned in the report and it is something that everyone here can relate to - that you don't forget about it because of the more strict way we have to live our lives. I also know that however many times that I have gone out and drank at a bar or restaurant in the last 10 years was not the same scenario and that it is my fault for not eating dinner after taking my shot and not stopping at one beer or leaving an hour earlier, or calling a friend (although I was not impaired at the time I left).
I will contact the ADA and do some additional research to hopefully avoid some of the penalties that this could cause. All of the penalties are bad but Arizona does have a mandatory Ignition Interlock device that is required to be installed in your car for six months if I was to be convicted of this. That scares me because if you think about how many times you get into your car just to run an errand, go to work, go to the grocery store, anything.. and if for some reason I have any diabetic issues when I need to blow into a device and it it registers any alcohol in my system it will alert the company that tracks that and also alert the AZ DMV. I know from what I have read, that those devices are based on the same concepts as the roadside breathalyzer scripts. I can only imagine if my sugars are low or somehow there is more acetone in my body that it would register on the device that I had alcohol in my system and cause further problems with my license being suspended. I am going to get as much information as I can to fight this and know that although I caused no harm to anyone and was not driving erratically or causing any problems the law is not sympathetic to anyone or any condition.
Thank you for your help. I hope no one has to ever go through this and I can only hope and pray for the best outcome and never put myself into that situation again. If anyone else has any more information on if frequent low blood sugars or occasional highs (250 or above) would cause any kind of increase in the BAC of a blood sample please reply.
09-02-2012 08:19 PM
First of all, I am sorry this happened to you but I would never take that much insulin before I drive. In fact I would have never put off eating for so long after taking fast acting insulin and especially that much at one time. I would find myself in the tank so to speak. In fact I wouldn't even do that before taking a shower or bath as the warm water could make the insulin work much faster and thus drop one's blood sugar even more.
My second thing is I don't see you mention that you carry your glucose meter or wearing a medic alert bracelet or dog tags any place in your post.
Also wearing a CGM could have shown you were dropping or what was happening to your blood sugars at the time and would have been good proof
to the police that you had diabetes.
I think that you should call 1-800-Diabetes and let them know of your situation and they will be able to help you more with your defense to have
the charge at least reduced. Also police only care about their side of the story so they are not going to put your side in at all. That is your
job to do so at the trial. Have a letter from your doctor to prove you have type 1 and have low blood sugars and can tell when you are going low.
Check your BG before you drive, and even pull over to check it again if you start to feel off. Don't take insulin especially that much before you drive.
Next time refuse the breathalzyer test. Them saying you could means it might happen but it doesn't mean it will. I know you will make changes that will improve your life so this will not happen again. People here will be happy to help you with your diabetes and they are very good.
a Deaf person with Diabetes.
09-02-2012 08:25 PM
in CT, refusal to take the breathalyzer means an automatic 6 month suspension of your drivers license.
A lawyer told someone I know that you are always better off taking the breathalyzer.
09-03-2012 11:34 AM - edited 09-03-2012 11:35 AM
Diabetic Ketoacidosis definitely will prove problematic for a breathalyzer, and is fairly well documented in numerous locations, but ketoacidosis is a result of very high blood sugar, not hypo.
I have never heard how a hypo would effect a breathalyzer, but if the police officer admits you told him you were hypo very early, one could possibly argue the effects of the hypo was the reason for whatever reason the cop pulled you over and thus he did not have probable cause for a DUI at this point.
In any case, in your particular situation, a good lawyer is your best bet.
Also, rember when you are the person being charged, the police are never your friends, and they are NEVER trying to help. The are trying to gain evidence to support their charge against you, and the less information you give them, the better.
09-03-2012 05:08 PM
parts of your evening are really confusing to me. First, I'm surprised that you didn't crash much earlier. A T1 that takes 15 units of Novolog and only eats 1/2 a candy bar -- I would have expected you to be crashing within an hour. What numbers do you normally run that you can take that much insulin and only get down to the 80s.. which is a good number for a person with T1. The other piece that is confusing to me is that you said you were having ketoacidosis.. That is usually a possibility when you are running high with no insulin. This is the first time I have heard of an episode from running low with extra insulin... I guess we all can learn.
09-04-2012 01:35 AM
I think what he was getting at, is that the breath thingy will pick up on DKA. But what he wanted to know, is if the same device will pick up on hypos. Hypos do put out an odor of some sort, or animals would not be able to detect it. But whether the device can pick it up, remains unknown.
09-04-2012 01:50 AM - edited 09-04-2012 01:51 AM
I think this is one time, that you are going to have to bite the bullet on, and learn from it. Granted, I know this isn't something that you want to hear and this is not a lecture, but we all have to face our screwups and learn from them.
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