A New York woman beat a drunk driving charge this week after proving that her stomach works a little differently than most.
The woman, who was not named in the case as her lawyer feared the condition could cause her embarrassment at work, showed that she suffers from a rare disorder called “Auto-Brewery Syndrome.” The condition is categorized by an excess amount of yeast in the stomach cavity, which can sometimes turn beverages and food into alcohol.
“It’s also known as gut fermentation syndrome,” said defense attorney Joseph J. Marusak. “She can register a blood alcohol content that would have you or I falling down drunk, but she can function.”
According to court details, the defendant was stopped by police after a concerned motorist phoned in a tip about a car driving erratically with one flat tire. After speaking with the woman, police noted that she “exhibited glassy-bloodshot eyes and slurred speech,” and they asked her to submit to a breathalyzer. Court records indicate that she blew a 0.33, and a subsequent blood test revealed a similar reading of 0.30. The woman admitted to consuming three drinks earlier in the day, but not nearly enough to register such an elevated BAC.
Adamant that she only had three drinks, the woman’s lawyer began to work on their defense plan. Marusak said he looked online to see if the elevated BAC could be brought on by an undiagnosed medical condition when he stumbled upon a study discussing “Auto Brewery Syndrome.” The woman visited a doctor who has previously treated patients with ABS, and over the course of a month the defendant checked her BAC levels on 18 different occasions when she had not consumed any alcohol that day. Almost every time her BAC measured above the legal limit, and the majority of the time it came in over 0.20 percent.
The icing on the cake came when a medical team examined the woman over the course of a 12 hours.
“Her blood alcohol level was repeatedly measured at very high levels – .279, then .379 and then .40 – extremely high levels,” Marusak said. “We then took blood samples and refrigerated them, and took them to the Erie County Medical Center lab to be examined. Again, those levels came out extremely high.”
DUI Thrown Out
Presented with all the evidence that the defendant did not knowingly get behind the wheel with an elevated BAC, the judge decided to dismiss the drunk driving charges.
Prosecutors said they plan to appeal the ruling.
In the wake of the incident, the defendant opted to change her diet based on recommendations from her doctor. According to her lawyer, the woman “hasn’t had an episode” since altering her diet.