Feb 17


When someone is charged with driving under the influence, they are often assumed to be guilty, and the court may not take into account any other explanations for their behavior. However, there are a variety of medical conditions that can mimic intoxication, making it important to consider other factors when assessing a DUI case.

If you have been arrested for DUI, you need to explore all of the defense options that may be available in your case. One of the defense strategies may be arguing that you have a medical condition that was mistaken for intoxication. Consult with our Bloomington DUI defense attorney at The Prior Law Firm, P.C., to discuss your unique case.

Medical Conditions That Can Be Mistaken for Intoxication

Here is an overview of some common medical conditions that can be mistaken for intoxication in DUI cases.

Diabetes and Hypoglycemia

Diabetes and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can cause unusual behaviors that may look like intoxication, such as slurred speech, confusion, and unsteady gait. As blood sugar levels drop further, symptoms become more severe and can include disorientation and unconsciousness. If an individual has diabetes or hypoglycemia, it is important to have this condition taken into consideration when assessing a DUI case.

Note: The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 11% of the U.S. population (more than 37 million Americans) have diabetes.

Brain Injuries

Head injuries or brain trauma can also lead to behavior that looks like intoxication due to its effects on coordination and balance. Ataxia is one type of brain injury that causes difficulty walking and speaking clearly; this condition is often mistaken for drunkenness by those who are unfamiliar with its symptoms. In addition, individuals with brain injuries may have a hard time understanding instructions or following directions which could lead them to fail sobriety tests even if they have not been drinking alcohol or using drugs. 

Reaction to Medications

Certain medications can also cause changes in behavior that could be misinterpreted as signs of intoxication by law enforcement officers. Antidepressants, antihistamines, pain relievers, and muscle relaxers can all cause side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, or impaired judgment, which could be mistaken for being drunk or high on drugs. It’s important for drivers to be aware of how the medications they are taking might affect their ability to drive safely so they can take appropriate precautions when operating a vehicle.

Kidney or Liver Disease

The symptoms of kidney and liver diseases can often mimic the effects of alcohol intoxication. Symptoms such as disorientation, confusion, impaired coordination, dizziness, slurred speech, and difficulty walking can all be signs of both intoxication and serious health problems. If you have any reason to believe that your condition may have been caused by a kidney or liver disease rather than alcohol or drugs, it is important to get tested for these diseases immediately.

Heartburn or GERD

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder characterized by chronic acid reflux (heartburn). In some cases, acid reflux can cause chest pain so severe that it mimics the effects of being intoxicated. While many individuals suffering from GERD will not experience this level of pain and discomfort, those who do should be aware that their symptoms could be mistaken for drunkenness if they are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.

Discuss Your Case with a DUI Defense Attorney

It’s possible for certain medical conditions to mimic signs of intoxication during a DUI stop. For this reason, it’s important for individuals facing DUI charges to take these potential causes into consideration when evaluating their case.

While these conditions may not necessarily exonerate an individual from all charges related to driving under the influence (DUI), they should certainly be taken into account before sentencing so justice is served appropriately in each case. If you are facing DUI charges, our compassionate and dedicated attorney at The Prior Law Firm, P.C., can help you understand your defense options. Call (309) 827-4300 today to receive a free case evaluation.