In 2016, an upstate New York woman she blew a blood alcohol level more than four times the legal limit and was charged with a DUI. However, the a judge dismissed the charges after being presented with evidence the woman suffers from “auto-brewery syndrome.”
“I had never heard of auto-brewery syndrome before this case,” her attorney told CNN. “But I knew something was amiss when the hospital police wanted to release her immediately because she wasn’t exhibiting any symptoms.”
“That prompts me to get on the Internet and see if there is any sort of explanation for a weird reading,” adds her her attorney. “Up pops auto-brewery syndrome and away we go.”
“I’m in touch with about 30 people who believe they have this same syndrome, about 10 of them are diagnosed with it,” said Panola College Dean of Nursing Barbara Cordell, who has studied the syndrome for years. “They can function at alcohol levels such as 0.30 and 0.40 when the average person would be comatose or dying. Part of the mystery of this syndrome is how they can have these extremely high levels and still be walking around and talking.”
Auto-brewery syndrome is a very rare condition. People who have auto-brewery syndrome register abnormally high blood alcohol levels, even if they consume no alcohol. Crohn’s disease, liver problems, poor nutrition, antibiotics, inflammatory bowel disease, low immune system, diabetes are all believed to cause auto brewery syndrome. Symptoms can sometimes include moodiness, confusion, difficulty focusing, lack of physical coordination, and memory problems.
When people suffer from this disorder, their bodies makes alcohol out of carbs they eat. This happens insides the gut or intestines. It may be caused by too much yeast in the gut. Yeast is a fungus. Some kinds of yeast that might cause this disorder are
- Candida albicans
- Candida glabrata
- Torulopsis glabrata
- Candida krusei
- Candida kefyr
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae
The syndrome was first discovered in 1912. It was then called “germ carbohydrate fermentation.” It was studied in the 1930s and ‘40s as a contributing factor to vitamin deficiencies and irritable bowel syndrome. Right now, there’s no criteria to diagnose or even treat auto-brewery syndrome making it even harder to tell when patients have the disorder.
The auto-brewery syndrome might lead to a DUI arrest since it causes patients to have a breath or blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit even though no alcoholic beverage was consumed. However, it can be used as a defense to a DUI charge.
California Vehicle Code 23152 (a) states: It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle. Someone with auto brewery system cannot be convicted of violating this statute because they have not consumed any alcoholic beverage.
California Vehicle Code 23152(b) states: It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle. It doesn’t mention the defendant’s BAC needs to be due to actually having consumed an alcoholic beverage. However, involuntary intoxication can be used as a defense to this crime. If someone has not consumed any alcoholic beverages, the defendant’s intoxication was involuntary just as if they were drugged.
Defense would have to use expert testimony to prove to the court that the disorder is valid, the defendant’s medical records that the defendant has the disorder and present evidence that it contributed to the DUI offense.
If you have been arrested for a DUI offense, immediately hire an attorney. If you believe you might suffer from auto brewery syndrome, it is crucial that you discuss with your attorney.