If you suffer from diabetes, you may be aware of the prejudice that diabetics face regarding charges for driving under the influence (DUI). An individual suffering from a diabetic medical episode will exhibit symptoms similar to those of intoxication: slurred speech, reduced fine motor controls, disorientation, and confusion. Unfortunately, police officers are rarely able to differentiate between a diabetic medical episode and intoxication. Worse, modern breathalyzer devices used to administer roadside breath tests lack the sophistication necessary to consistently distinguish between an intoxicated driver and a driver suffering from a diabetic medical episode. The result is that diabetics can find themselves facing DUI charges despite not having actually consumed any drugs or alcohol prior to driving. Overcoming the challenges presented in these unique cases requires a skilled DUI defense attorney.
As the Senior Assistant Solicitor-General, Attorney Phil Pilgrim prosecuted more than 4,000 DUI cases per year. Phil brings this experience to criminal defense where he successfully employs his intricate knowledge of the prosecution’s tactics to defend those who have been accused of DUI. Most importantly, Phil has seen first-hand the issues that diabetics face when being charged with DUI. Thankfully, his prior experience as a prosecutor allows him to work diligently to resolve improper DUI allegations. If you have been accused of DUI in Atlanta or Northern Georgia, please contact our office today for a free consultation.
What is the blood alcohol content (BAC) Limit in Georgia?
In the State of Georgia, the following BAC limits apply:
- 0.08 BAC applies to drivers older than 21 years of age while operating a vehicle that is not a commercial vehicle
- 0.04 BAC applies to drivers older than 21 years of age while operating a commercial vehicle
- 0.02 BAC applies to drivers less than 21 years of age
If a driver registers a BAC in excess of the legally allowed limit, he or she will face arrest and likely be charged with DUI. Additionally, even if a driver has a BAC below the legal limit, he or she may still be charged with DUI. Under Georgia law, a person must not “drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.” This “DUI less safe” charge only requires that the prosecution prove that you had consumed alcohol which caused you to operate a motor vehicle in a less safe manner.
A diabetic individual driving home after a glass of wine or beer with a BAC well under the legal limit may suffer a diabetic medical episode that could be confused for DUI less safe. As a result, the risk of improper allegations of DUI are high for diabetic individuals.
How does diabetes affect the breath test?
For this one, we suggest you buckle up for a scenic ride through the land of science. For those less interested in the why, the how is that individuals suffering from certain diabetic effects can produce a chemical that breathalyzers cannot discern from actual alcohol. Thus, the breathalyzer may register a BAC of 0.05 (sufficient to be charged with DUI less safe) despite the individual not having actually consumed any alcohol. For those with a greater curiosity, here we go:
Breathalyzers use infrared spectrometry to identify alcohol vapors based on how they absorb infrared light. Based on the absorption patterns, the breathalyzer computes the predicted BAC. The spectrometer in the breathalyzer cannot discern between ketones (naturally produced by the body) and ethyl alcohol (the alcohol in beer, wine, and spirits). When a diabetic person faces ketoacidosis due to too much insulin, skipping a meal, or too much exercise, their body produces excess ketones that cannot be excreted normally. The result is that the excess ketones are released into the person’s blood and breath. Ketones are chemically very similar to ethyl alcohol. Due to the similarity between ketones and ethyl alcohol, a person whose body is undergoing ketoacidosis (the excess production of ketones) may register a BAC on the breathalyzer. This is all despite the person not having consumed any alcohol.
As noted, ketoacidosis is the process that can cause the breathalyzer to incorrectly register a BAC. Diabetics are not the only individuals who face ketoacidosis. Those who have exercised too much or are on certain diets, such as those high in protein or low in carbohydrates, may also undergo ketoacidosis. As a result, even if you’re not diabetic, you may still suffer the same risks of DUI despite not having consumed alcohol.
Contact Our Atlanta Diabetic DUI Defense Attorney
At Carter Pilgrim, Attorney Phil Pilgrim will defend you from improper DUI allegations. If you are diabetic or believe that you have been improperly charged with DUI based on ketoacidosis, Phil Pilgrim can be the difference between having a life-long criminal record and having the charges dismissed. Having prosecuted more than 4,000 DUI cases and having defended hundreds more, Georgia Attorney Pilgrim will use his incomparable experience to diligently review every aspect of your case and mount an exemplary defense. If you have been accused of DUI in Atlanta or Northern Georgia, please contact our office today for a free consultation.
The Law Office of Carter Pilgrim is located in Suwanee, GA and serves Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, Cumming, Buford, Lawrenceville, Braselton, Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Duluth, Norcross, Hoschton, Jefferson, Commerce, Dawsonville, Gainesville, and other surrounding areas.