Trenton, NJ- Even though there are a great deal of legitimate DUI arrests, some people have medical problems that cause them to exhibit the signs of drunkenness and they can be unjustly arrested. This is an issue that New Jersey lawmakers viewed as a problem and now there is a new law that will protect diabetic drivers from needless DUI arrests.
Lawmakers had help crafting Assembly Bill (A 945) by a young man, Jeff Ritter, who suffers from Type-1 diabetes and understands how his condition affects all aspects of his life.
“If you go hypoglycemic, you can exhibit symptoms of being drunk,” Ritter said.
The law allows drivers to voluntarily have their condition included on their driver’s license. Although the legislation was initially introduced in 2011, it was not signed into law until last Wednesday, NJ.com reported.
Ritter urged lawmakers to take up the bill again after he learned of a Pennsylvania man who was arrested and abused by New Jersey police while he was suffering from diabetic shock.
In the fall of 2010, New Jersey Police found Daniel Fried slumped over the wheel of his car in Route 72 in Burlington County. NJ.com reported that Fried’s eyelids were drooping, he was incoherent and slurring his words and about to pass out. To police, Fried appeared to be intoxicated.
Police perceived Fried’s behavior as belligerent and wrestled him to the ground. The officers struck him with a baton and placed him under arrest.
On a tape of the altercation, obtained by the New Jersey Star Ledger, Fried can be heard telling the officers they were hurting him and he pleaded with them to stop. Fried was injured and taken to the hospital; he had cuts on his arms and suffered a broken wrist. Fried can also be heard asking police to get the fruit punch from his vehicle he kept in case his blood sugar got too low.
While in an ambulance after the altercation, a paramedic tested Fried’s blood sugar and found that it had fallen to a dangerously low level which could have caused him to slip into a coma or die.
Ritter was alarmed by the treatment Fried received and feared that he or other diabetics could suffer the same fate and teamed up with Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland) and re-introduced the bill to the Assembly.
“He was treated like he was a criminal rather than having a medical issue that needed to be addressed,” Jeff Ritter said, according to NJ.com
Doctors confirm that a diabetic whose blood sugar has dropped can exhibit the signs of drunkenness.
“You can go low at any time,” Ritter said. “You can have the best management possible for your diabetes, but some days your numbers are going to be off.”
In addition to denoting a driver’s condition on their license, the legislation will allow police to able to see that a detainee suffers from diabetes on their driving records. This new legislation will hopefully prevent other diabetics from being treated the way Fried was and help them avoid an accidental DUI arrest which has serious consequences.