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Mark I. Cohen, ESQ. NYC Criminal Attorney

Medical Conditions That Can Be Mistaken For Intoxication


If you’re facing DUI charges, it is crucial that you retain a skilled attorney who can defend you. There are many ways a DUI attorney can help defend your DUI charges, with one of the possible defenses being your medical condition. Some medical conditions cause symptoms that mimic those caused by intoxication, such as slurred speech, disorientation, and watery eyes. Apart from conditions that exhibit symptoms that mimic intoxication, there are also those that can impact a breath test.

If you were arrested and charged with a DUI in New York, you should tell your attorney if you have, among others, any of these medical conditions that can be mistaken for drunk driving behavior;


Firstly, if the blood sugar of a person with diabetes falls too low, they may become irritable, disoriented, or dizzy. Unfortunately, all these are symptoms that can be mistaken for intoxication. Secondly, a person with insulin-dependent diabetes who misses or delays a meal might suffer from confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, or impaired coordination. If this happens, an officer may mistakenly believe that this person is intoxicated. Additionally, diabetic people may have an unusually great amount of ketones in their breath. If a diabetic person with a high amount of ketones in their breath takes a breathalyzer test, the test might indicate results that suggest they are intoxicated even if they aren’t.

Brain Injury

An injury of the brain can result in, among other things, a person experiencing difficulties with speaking or coordination. If you have a brain injury, your loved ones may know that your behavior is because of your brain injury, but the officer who stopped you doesn’t understand that.

Heart Condition

An individual with a heart condition may exhibit symptoms such as excessive sweating and breathing difficulty, which mimic symptoms of intoxication.


A person who has epilepsy can suffer a seizure at any time. And usually, seizures happen without warning. When a driver suffers a seizure and displays aggressions, dizziness, or staring spells, an officer may conclude they are intoxicated even if they are not.


A person with dementia can sometimes be irritable, confused, or unresponsive. When a police officer stops a person with dementia, they may assume that alcohol is causing the person to be confused, irritable, or unresponsive.


Allergies can make your eyes look bloodshot, red, itchy, and watery. All these are symptoms that a police officer might take to mean you are intoxicated.


Ataxia is a condition that causes clumsy voluntary movements. It can result in difficulties with balance, speech, and hand coordination. Ataxia can also affect eye movements.

Gastro Disorders

For example, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can result in a false positive. This condition causes acid to flow back into the esophagus, which can lead to inflated alcohol readings when you are required to exhale deeply.


Asthmatic people who use inhaled medications can raise a false positive on a breathalyzer test. An asthma inhaler can give readings in a breath test that is above the legal limit.

Contact an NYC DUI/DWUI/DWAI Attorney

If you were arrested and charged with DUI in New York and have a medical condition, talk to the NYC DUI/DWUI/DWAI attorney, Mark I. Cohen, for help determining if you can use your medical condition as a defense. You can schedule a consultation by calling 212-732-0002 or filling out our online contact form.


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