Here’s something new: A New York woman’s drunk driving charges were dismissed based on the claim that her body brews alcohol. When the woman was pulled over for erratic driving, cops found that she had a blood alcohol level of .33, which is four times the legal limit. She told police that she had three alcoholic beverages earlier in the day, but that is not nearly enough to produce a BAC that high.
The woman didn’t black out and forget how many drinks she had or lie to the cops. As it turns out, she suffers from an extremely rare medical condition. Auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, occurs when an overgrowth of yeast in the stomach causes it to ferment carbohydrates into booze. People with this condition can get drunk simply from eating bread, pasta, or potatoes.
Claiming to have auto-brewery syndrome could be a great get-out-of-jail-free card for those who actually were drunk driving, but proving it requires serious testing. The woman’s attorney, Joseph Marusak, said “I had never heard of auto-brewery syndrome before this case, but I knew something was amiss when the hospital wanted to release her immediately because she wasn’t exhibiting any symptoms of intoxication.” Marusak hired two nurses and a physician’s assistant to monitor the woman for a day. Without having any drinks, her blood level was double the legal limit at 9:15 AM, triple the limit at 6 PM, and at the end of the day she had a blood alcohol content of .36!
According to Dr. Anup Kanodia, a doctor who studies the condition, “There are people who get drunk without drinking any alcohol at all…they are legally drunk, but they are walking around. They are functioning.” Dr. Anup Kanodia eventually diagnosed the woman with auto-brewery syndrome and prescribed a low-carbohydrate diet to prevent fermentation. The 35-year-old teacher’s case was dismissed and she is free to drive without any restrictions.
Gut-fermentation syndrome was able to be used as a valid defense because the woman was unaware she had it. Marusak said his client “had no idea she had this condition. Never felt tipsy. Nothing,” People that are diagnosed with a medical condition can be found liable for failing to take reasonable measures in light of that knowledge.
The New York woman is not the only person to suffer from the condition. Back in 2013, a 61-year-old man was experiencing episodes of debilitating drunkenness without drinking any alcohol. Barbara Cordell of Panola College in Texas discovered that the yeast in the man’s stomach was converting the sugar into Ethanol, making him “drunk”.
Regardless of whether you have this medical condition or not, drunk driving is a serious offense and requires the legal assistance of an experienced defense attorney. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, contact me, Leon Matchin, at 732-662-7658 to talk about your situation.