The Apple DWI Defense
Newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported last week Marek Latas, a Polish lawmaker, was pulled over for a DWI. The legal blood alcohol content limit in Poland is 0.2 units. Latas was pulled over with a blood alcohol content of 0.7 units. I have no idea how units translate to the US blood alcohol content percentages, never less, it is clear by just comparing the numbers, he was drunk.
“I have been involved in no accident, I underwent a routine roadside check. I was confident there was no chance I had alcohol in my blood,” said Latas, a member of parliament for the conservative opposition Law and Justice Party.
Of course since I’m writing about this, you know he had a pretty interesting excuse for his intoxication.
He ate an apple.
A couple apples in fact. That was his excuse and his defense. The politician denies having any alcohol earlier in the day.
Does an apple a day keep the DWI check away?
Here’s the kicker. My first thought was this guy is full of cider. Turns out a diabetic can give a false positive.
The reason is a breathalyzer doesn’t really detect alcohol. The breathalyzer detects any molecules in the methyl group. If there is a large amount detected, the assumption is the breathalyzer is detecting alcohol (ethanol).
Another chemical which shows as a positive is acetone. It’s not too common to have acetones on your breath, unless you have ketoacidosis. According to wikipedia, “ketoacidosis is a type of metabolic acidosis which is caused by high concentrations of ketone bodies”. Ketoacidosis makes your breath smell like fruit or nail polish remover. Why is this important? Ketoacidosis is a known symptom of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. This is the tie to diabetes.
Hypoglycemia is common for people with diabetes. Someone who is hypoglycemic will appear to be shaky, nervous, sweaty, dizzy, confused, anxious, and will have difficulty speaking. Sound familiar? These also happen to be the symptoms of a drunk at a DWI checkpoint. This was demonstrated in Diabetes, Breath Acetone and Breathalyzer Accuracy: A Case Study, 9(1) Alcohol, Drugs and Driving (1993).
The only question is, could several apples trigger hypoglycemia in the Polish politician? Apples typically are ok because the carbohydrates in apples are digested more slowly than other fruits. Enough apples could cause a sharp blood sugar crash later in the day however. His story is plausable.
There is one other substance which can trigger hypoglycemia. Alcohol.
The breathalyzer can be inaccurate and give false positives. It also catches many real drunks. Only a blood test will be able to say for sure.
Tough call for the judge.
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