This is an article in todays paper, thought it would be interesting
Charges will not be filed against a West Fargo man involved in a July 17 construction zone crash that killed a county Highway Department worker.
Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said Tuesday that Russell L. Roberts, 45, was having a diabetic reaction at the time of the incident, which led to the decision.
Regional dispatchers in Fargo received a call about possible drunken driving through a construction zone on Cass County Road 10 at 7:13 p.m. on July 17. Within minutes, another call came in reporting the same westbound driver had crashed, hitting a road-paving vehicle and killing a worker identified as Ben Lenzen Jr. of Fargo.
The totaled green sport utility vehicle came to rest about 915 feet west of the crash scene, where a responding Cass County deputy approached the vehicle and its unconscious driver, who was slumped over the wheel.
Roberts had trouble answering questions “with any sort of speech that made sense,” Deputy Chris Fix said in his report.
Roberts had trouble standing, walking and seemed shaky when he got out of the SUV, but officers later determined Roberts was not intoxicated. Roberts told law enforcement officials he did not recall anything about the crash, and that he has diabetes and carries an insulin pump.
Roberts became more alert after responding ambulance crews determined his blood sugar level was low and started an IV to raise it.
These details are listed in law enforcement reports about the accident obtained by The Forum after Burdick announced the decision.
“Based on all the information we had, we did not believe there was anything we could prove to a criminal court that he (Roberts) would have had sufficient knowledge and ability to control the reaction that was coming on,” Burdick said Tuesday.
A report prepared by Assistant Cass County State’s Attorney Leah Viste explains why charges were not filed.
In the report, Viste said Roberts has type 1 diabetes and sometimes experiences hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Symptoms of low blood sugar include coordination and concentration problems and in extreme cases, loss of consciousness and coma.
Viste said in her report that on the day of the crash, emergency workers confirmed Roberts had low blood sugar; other tests showed he had no alcohol in his blood.
Roberts also had no memory of events that day from about 5:30 p.m. until he was in an ambulance after the collision, Viste said.
According to the report, Roberts’ physician, Dr. Juan Munoz, told investigators that Roberts had no medical restrictions on driving, nor did Munoz think Roberts would have necessarily noticed hypoglycemia coming on.
If Roberts was unaware his blood sugar was dropping, he would not have been able to prevent the reaction, Viste said in the report.
Viste said charges of negligent homicide and reckless endangerment were considered and rejected.
“Based on the facts of this case, he (Roberts) was incapable of unreasonably disregarding the fact that his driving may injure someone,” Viste wrote.
“In addition,” she said, “driving with a medical condition under these circumstances does not involve a gross deviation from acceptable standards of conduct. If that were the case, anyone diagnosed with a heart condition or a seizure disorder, for example, would be prohibited from driving.”
Contacted at his home Tuesday, Munoz said he could not discuss specific patients, but he spoke in general about how people with low blood sugar may behave.
He said the body relies on sugar for energy and that the function of the nervous system is compromised when sugar levels drop below a threshold.
When that starts happening, there usually are warning signs such as rapid heartbeat, excessive perspiration and a shaky feeling, he said.
Diabetics usually recognize when their glucose level is dropping, unless they’ve had the condition for many years, Munoz said.
“Due to the fact their nerve endings get damaged, it is not unusual for older diabetics to lose that ability to recognize the upcoming low blood sugar,” he said.
He said there have been cases of diabetics experiencing low blood sugar who commit crimes and later have no recollection of it.
“I have seen, for example in the hospital, patients get out of their room and they just walk in a daze in the hallways. It’s not that they can’t move, it’s just that their cognitive functions get impaired,” Munoz said.
Lenzen’s family met with state Highway Patrol officials who investigated the accident along with Cass County deputies. The family questioned whether laws should restrict driver’s licenses for those with medical conditions and whether Roberts tested his blood sugar the day of the crash, according to papers released by Burdick’s office.
Lenzen’s father, Ben Lenzen, declined to comment Tuesday.
Roberts did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.