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Drunk Driving Suspect Actually Suffering Diabetic Attack

by | Jul 23, 2013

Police who aggressively manhandled and handcuffed a woman they suspected of drunk driving was in fact suffering from a diabetic attack.

Our D.C. DUI defense lawyers understand that the events unfolded in Santa Fe, NM, where a police cruiser dash camera video emerged showing police yanking a woman out of her vehicle, laying her face down on the ground and handcuffing her. It was later revealed she was having a diabetic attack.

In fairness, police aren’t medical professionals. They can’t be expected to accurately diagnose every person’s condition and clearly, it was a good thing they got this woman off the road as she was likely a danger to herself and others behind the wheel.

However, police are supposed to be trained to spot a drunk driver. That means they should be able to tell the difference between someone who is intoxicated and someone who may be suffering from some other ailment.

But police aren’t always apt in this regard. In fact, there are a number of medical conditions that police sometimes mistake for intoxication. Even if a person suffering one of these conditions has consumed alcohol or drugs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the substance was the cause of the crash or erratic driving.

These conditions are:

  1. Diabetes. A person with diabetes could exhibit some abnormal behaviors that could mimic those of a person who is intoxicated. Those include: dizziness or balance trouble, hostility, nervousness or apprehension, disorientation or confusion, unusual sweating, sudden mood changes and the inability to concentrate.
  2. Drowsiness. A person who is overly-tired can be found to have impaired judgement, reaction time and vision. He or she might also have issues with short-term memory loss and difficulty processing information.
  3. Epilepsy. A person suffering from a seizure might appear detached from reality or seemingly in a dream-like state. He or she might be dizzy, lose their balance and fall down. They may stare at nothing and seem unresponsive. They may simply try to walk away mid-conversation. They may be unable to answer simple questions, seem unjustifiably fearful. They could be excessively angry or happy. They could also show a complete loss of consciousness.
  4. Brain injury. A person who is suffering the effects (long or short-term) of a traumatic brain injury could exhibit tremors and show trouble maintaining their balance. He or she may be unable to make simple movements of certain body parts and have difficulty focusing on certain tasks. Their visual focus might be impaired and they could have trouble with hand-eye coordination. They may have trouble understanding spoken words and they could slur their speech. In some cases, they may report seeing visual hallucinations.
  5. Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Someone with one of these conditions could appear paranoid, display drastic mood changes and be thoroughly confused. They may have trouble speaking and remembering.

In this case, officers had responded to the scene after the woman had reportedly slammed into a truck while in the midst of a diabetic episode. She was unable to open the door of her vehicle. Dash camera footage shows the officers pulling her out of her car, throwing her down on the pavement, handcuffing her and then leaving her there for several minutes face-down. It wasn’t until later, when they brought her into the cruiser, that they realized her blood sugar was low and they called for paramedics to come and treat her.

The sheriff of the agency has commented that he was surprised that the woman didn’t go into a coma while in the back of that cruiser. He said his agency is launching an internal investigation into the matter.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.