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I am an insulin dependent diabetic and charged with a OWI and fleeing and eluding

Kalamazoo, MI |

I had what many expressed as a diabetic episode. I remember being at an establishment having drinks, visited a restroom then the next thing I remember was being placed in a police cruiser. As to the police report and cruiser video I was found driving my vehicle and failed to stop when an officer attempted to pull me over for a few minutes. I don't recall any of this and my BAC was not high.

I have legal council and unless I can find a medical expert to support the effects and complications concerning my illness I fear my case will not end favorable for my defense..

Is there a specific consultant in Michigan I can resource to find a knowledgeable expert witness in the area of diabetic illnesses? Legal specifics to help in my defense?

Or all around opinions of the outcome to my case?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. I think you should first start with your personal physician or endocrinologist. They will have the best feel for your medical history.

    Were you able to document your blood glucose level at any time surrounding your contact with law enforcement? Also, you need to document the type of insulin you take, your last dose, your last meal, etc.

    As a former paramedic and now a DUI defense lawyer, I can tell you that a diabetic emergency can quite easily be confused for intoxication.

    Best of luck to you.

    John Buckley

    No answer here should be considered to form an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction so that a full evaluation of the facts of your case can be conducted.

  2. Considering your issues with your physician, I would tell your attorney to look for a copy of his Michigan Bar Journal - its a great resource for finding expert witnesses.

    Beyond that, get in contact with your attorney to make sure things are progressing as they should be with your defense. He/she may have already secured an expert, or may have attempted contact with several potential experts. Either way, make sure your attorney understands your concerns.

  3. Are you a Type 1 diabetic, or Type 2? In either case, you first have to establish your diagnosis for diabetes. If you are taking insulin, then your endocrinologist (your treating doctor for diabetes) has diagnosed you and given you a prescription for insulin. Your attorney should get a letter from your doctor establishing your diabetes. It is not admissible in court, but can be used in plea bargaining.

    That being said, do you think that you were low or experiencing a high (hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia). Each has different symptoms, but for what you describe it would appear that you had a low. Symptoms can include dizziness, pounding of the heart, blurred vision, personality change, and blackout. As you must know, you can become hypoglycemic if you drink alcohol without eating food. When was the last time you tested your blood sugar before the incident. In the September 2003 issue of Medical and Toxicological Information Review, John Arnold, MD, in a scientific article entitled “Hypoglycemia: Driving Under the Influence,” reports that:

    "Hypoglycemia (abnormally low levels of blood glucose) is frequently seen in connection with driving error on this nation’s roads and highways, including accidents with personal and material damage. Even more frequently are unjustified DUIs or DWIs stemming from hypoglycemic symptoms that can closely mimic those of a drunk driver."

    According to Dr. Keith Ryan in his article “Alcohol and Blood Sugar Disorders”, 8(2) Alcohol, Health and Res. World (1983), consumption of even small amounts of alcohol can produce hypoglycemia — either fasting glycemia or reactive glycemia. Fasting glycemia can exist where a person has not eaten in 24 hours or has been on a low-carbohydrate diet. Production of glucose in the liver is stopped while the alcohol is broken down. Result: the blood sugar level will drop, affecting the central nervous system — and producing symptoms of intoxication.

    There is also the issue of the presence of acetone in the breath of diabetics in distress as a cause of false arrests of diabetics for DUI. This is an issue with hypoglycemia, and I do not have time to discuss it here.

    Your treating doctor could certainly act as your expert witness since he could readily testify to the effects described above. Get him a copy of the article by Dr. John Arnold, and he can cite it for background, but it is all about diabetes masquerading as being under the influence of alcohol.

    Get an attorney who knows about these issues.

    I hope this helps.

    Disclaimer: This is a general discussion of legal principles by a California lawyer and does not create an attorney/client relationship. This is not intended to be legal advice in your specific case. It's impossible to give detailed, accurate advice based on a few sentences on a website. You should always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction who can give you an informed opinion after reviewing all of the relevant information in your case.

  4. By "not high", what exactly do you mean? If your BAC was over the legal limit, the diabetic episode isn't going to make much difference because .08% and higher is per se intoxicated. Even if you can show that your illness may have caused some effects similar to intoxication, it won't matter if in fact you were actually intoxicated as well. You can't drive around while you're actually drunk, even if you're diabetic. However, if your BAC was under a .08%, the prosecutor will have to show that you were at minimum "visibly impaired" as a result of your consumption of alcohol. At this point, you could argue that your visible impairment, if any, was caused by your condition and not by alcohol. I wish you luck.

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