Many police officers rely on the results of a Breathalyzer or other breath testing device to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol. However, standard breath testing devices are not perfect, and they can provide a positive reading even if the person in question did not drink that evening. This is a genuine possibility if the driver in question is a diabetic. 

A conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense, and it can stick with people for the rest of their lives. In the event someone is diabetic and pulled over by law enforcement, it is vital to inform the officer of the medical condition.

A hypoglycemic attack can resemble signs of intoxication

Before administering the breath test, some officers will ask the driver to step out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. It is entirely possible for someone going through a hypoglycemic attack to show off many of the same symptoms of being under the influence. Common symptoms of such an attack include the following:

  • Delayed reflexes
  • Slurred speech
  • Light-headedness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Hypoglycemia occurs when a diabetic experiences low blood sugar levels. It is a sign of a health problem but is not a disease in and of itself. 

Diabetes affects the results of breath tests

According to one research study, a diabetic who experiences blood glucose levels in excess of 250 mg/dl will be unable to produce energy through carbohydrates. As a result, the body will begin to produce energy by burning ketones. Diabetics can tell when this takes place because they will experience drowsiness, intense thirst and rapid heartbeat. Another side effect is that by burning ketones, the body will produce a distinct bad breath, which officers can mistake for intoxication. 

The levels can rise high enough to produce a result of 0.06 percent on a breath test.