A charge of DUI against a woman in upstate New York was dismissed on grounds that her body brews its own alcohol.
The woman, living in Hamburg, New York, blew a blood alcohol level of more than four times the legal limit but the local judge dismissed her DUI when her attorney presented evidence that she suffered from “auto-brewery syndrome.”
Her attorney began looking into the possibility of an alternative explanation to her elevated BAC levels when upon her release she was not exhibiting any signs of traditional intoxication, although her BAC levels were hitting levels of just under 0.40.
Auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut-fermentation syndrome, is a rare medical condition that can occur when abnormal amounts of gastrointestinal yeast convert common food carbohydrates into ethanol. This condition is believed to take place in the small bowel, as opposed to the large bowel where a gut fermentation process occurs to help give our bodies energy.
This rare medical condition was first noted in 1912 as “germ carbohydrate fermentation” and later studied as a possible factor of vitamin deficiencies and irritable bowel syndrome.
A 2013 case in Japan, involving inexplicable intoxication, was documented in a 61-year-old man. Upon further study of his condition, he was diagnosed with having an overabundance of a yeast called Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. It is the same yeast used to brew beer.
In the case of the Hamburg, NY, woman, she had been with her husband at a restaurant in 2014 where she consumed four drinks between noon and 6 p.m. So her husband contacted a local pharmacologist who stated that a woman her size having four drinks in that period should have a BAC level between 0.01 and 0.05, much lower than the legal limit of impairment in New York which is 0.08 percent.
The reason the police initially pulled her over was that she had been driving home from the restaurant when her tire blew. Because she was close to home she kept driving instead of pulling over to change it. Another driver saw her driving with the flat and called the police to help her. When the officer pulled her over, he had her blow for a DUI where she registered just under the 0.40 level. Because for most people that level is a life-threatening, she was taken to the hospital.
The woman’s husband hired two physician assistants and a person trained in administering Breathalyzers to observe her and take her BAC levels over a 12-hour-period. The blood samples were processed at the same lab used by the prosecuting attorney’s office. The results showed that without any drinks her blood level at 9:15 a.m. was already double the legal limit, triple the legal limit at 6 p.m. and four times the legal limit at 8:30 p.m., which was around the same time of the day when the police pulled her over. At the same time, she did not experience symptoms until her BAC was between 0.30 and 0.40.
Although the local judge dismissed the charges, the prosecutor’s office is likely to appeal the decision.