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Could diabetes lead to a DUI in Virginia?

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2024 | DUI

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense in Virginia – and it has serious consequences. If you’re caught weaving in traffic, falling asleep behind the wheel or otherwise acting erratically while you’re driving, you can expect the police to charge you.

However, things are not always what they seem. Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects roughly 11.3% of the U.S. population – and roughly 8.6 million undiagnosed people are out there at any given time. Many of them may not find out they’re diabetic until they’re pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.

Diabetes and hypoglycemia

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels. It can be caused by insufficient insulin production, such as in Type 1 diabetes, or the inability to effectively use the insulin the body produces, such as in Type 2 diabetes. Some unfortunate people even have a type of diabetes that is a hybrid of both.

People with diabetes have to carefully manage their blood sugar levels through medication, diet and lifestyle adjustment – but that’s not something you can do when you don’t even know you have the disease. Diabetes can interfere with your ability to drive in two different ways:

  • Hypoglycemia: This is when your blood sugar levels fall dangerously low. Hypoglycemia can cause sudden confusion, dizziness, blurred vision and even the loss of consciousness. Slurred speech, impaired coordination and erratic behavior are common when someone’s blood sugar gets too low. You may very well look drunk to the officer who pulls you over.
  • Hyperglycemia: This is when your blood sugar gets dangerously high. It can cause the rapid onset of fatigue, nausea, visual disturbances and dizziness. Plus, you may actually fail a breathalyzer since uncontrolled diabetes can cause ketosis, and ketones are read as ethanol on blood alcohol content tests.

If you were arrested for a DUI and you weren’t drinking (or not drinking nearly enough to cause the reaction you had), it may be wise to explore the possibility that diabetes played a role.