This must be the strangest DUI defenses I have ever heard of… but it’s true. It came to my attention when I read an article about a Boston man who was driving, seemingly drunk. The police didn’t believe him when he told them his “drunkenness” was caused by a medical condition known as “auto-brewery syndrome.” The condition is just as it sounds, his body was making alcohol. And as it turns out, this Boston man was not the first to be arrested for a DUI due to this condition. Others have made the news in the past, including a New York woman who was charged with DUI when her BAC was over four times the legal limit! Her body sure was making a lot of alcohol.
Auto-brewery syndrome is probably not the way a person would choose to get drunk. Our guts ferment fungi and bacteria as part of a normal process of digestion. During the normal digestive process, we produce very small quantities of ethanol. But the digestive process in a person with Auto-brewery syndrome becomes pathogenic and can produce high levels of ethanol. It is not caused or triggered by the consumption of alcohol; rather, it is an internal process gone awry. But it can, and usually does, cause the affected individual to have signs and symptoms of intoxication and raises the person’s blood alcohol level, sometimes to extreme levels as was the case with the New York woman.
It’s a pretty awful disease, but rare—although some research indicates it is underdiagnosed. It can occur in healthy individuals, but more often shows up in people with Crohn disease or diabetes, or in obese individuals. It not only makes the individual “drunk” but can cause many other unpleasant conditions, including vomiting, chronic fatigue, disorientation, and more.
For those unfortunate folks who have this disease and find themselves arrested for DUI, the misfortune is compounded. As you might imagine, the police are usually disbelieving. That was the case with the Boston driver. He refused a breathalyzer testand after being taken to the hospital, his BACwas found to be 0.2%– more than two times above the legal limit of 0.08%. The New York woman had to endure the arrest and charges before the judge finally dismissed the charge after she was able to prove she had this condition. You can’t blame the police; after all, the defense that my stomach made me drunk sounds preposterous. Even those who aren’t arrested for DUI still often face the hardship of trying to convince family, friends, and co-workers that they aren’t closet drinkers. Auto-brewery syndrome often makes the individual appear drunk and causes the smell of alcohol in the affected person’s breath.
While Auto-brewery syndrome is a legitimate defense to DUI, I haven’t encountered it in my twenty-five plus years of defending DUI cases. But I have encountered many other viable defenses to DUIthat can result in dismissal of the charge or a reduction to a lesser offense.
DUI Defense Attorney William Weinberg is available to review your DUI arrest and offer what he believes are your best options. You may reach himby calling his Irvine office at 949-474-08008 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.