Palm Beach DUI Defense: Medical Conditions That Mirror Intoxication

Deputies have arrested a man on suspicion of DUI manslaughter in Palm Beach County after a horrific crash that resulted in the death of a 3-year-old girl.
Investigators were quick to point out in their report that the defendant had a long history of traffic violations, had lost his license permanently more than a decade ago and was unemotional after the crash.

But while there is no question he shouldn’t have been behind the wheel, on account of his suspended license, he may have a strong defense that he wasn’t drunk, but rather in the throws of a diabetic attack.

Authorities made note of the fact that medical testing revealed the defendant to have an extremely high blood sugar level at the time of the crash. While his blood-alcohol level was 0.06 percent (below the 0.08 percent threshold to indicate intoxication), someone with diabetes who is suffering from hypoglycemia could potentially test positive for alcohol, even when he or she hasn’t consumed any at all.

That’s because the condition causes acetone in the breath, which a breathalyzer will register as alcohol. Exacerbating the situation is that someone who is suffering from a hypoglycemic episode could appear to be intoxicated. The condition may cause dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, glassy eyes, unsteadiness, combativeness and even unconsciousness.

Deputies in this case indicate they believe the defendant was drinking alcohol as well as suffering from a hypoglycemic episode, but it’s not clear what evidence they have to support that, other than his prior history, which is not necessarily relevant.

Investigators say the defendant was driving along Kirk Road when he seemed to suddenly lose control of his vehicle and ran off the road. It was about 2:30 p.m. He struck a 3-year-old girl who was walking along the sidewalk. Her wounds proved fatal.

After he hit the child with his truck, he reportedly cut through more grass and over two driveways before he uprooted several shrubs, broke a fence, knocked down a mailbox and slammed into a tree.

A witness reported she rushed to the side of the vehicle, where the defendant was trying to restart his car. The woman said she told him he couldn’t leave because he had just hit a child but, “He didn’t seem to care.”

While that seems incredibly harsh, it makes more sense in light of the fact that paramedics on the scene registered his blood sugar level at 500 – the highest the crew’s equipment would register. A normal level is 100.

His prior arrest history includes two arrest for inhalation of harmful substances and six prior DUIs.

While that history certainly won’t help his case, again, it’s not necessarily relevant. There needs to be some further indication of actual intoxication in order to prove a DUI manslaughter charge.

Diabetes is not the only medical condition that officers have historically mistaken for intoxication. Others may include:
–Hypoxia, or inadequate oxygen levels due to various conditions, which may cause confusion, cyanosis or restlessness.
–Stroke, which his the death or dying of brain tissue, possibly related to ruptured blood vessels or arterial blockages in the brain. May cause difficulty with speech, dizziness, loss of bladder or bowel control, impaired vision, nausea and vomiting, seizures, confusion or unconsciousness.
–Traumatic head injuries, which could cause someone to suffer impaired vision, vomiting, poor balance, altered mental state, combativeness and severe mood changes.

If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Man arrested in toddler death said he had diabetes, lost consciousness, Oct. 1, 2013, By Brittany Shammas, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Palm Beach DUI on Fourth of July Costs More Than Independence, July 3, 2013, Palm Beach DUI Defense Lawyer Blog

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