Recent New York DUI case brings attention to auto-brewery syndrome

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

A woman in New York was able to get her case dismissed by proving to the judge she had auto-brewery syndrome.

One of the most common tools used by law enforcement is the breath test, which analyzes the amount of ethanol alcohol molecules in a person's breath. However, there are documented factors that can affect the results of that test such as exposure to certain chemicals, the consuming of specific foods and even some health issues. A recent case in New York has brought attention to a little-known condition known as auto brewery syndrome.

Way over the legal limit

U.S. News & World Report stated that a woman in New York blew a blood alcohol content reading of .33 percent after she was pulled over by law enforcement. She was speaking with a slur and her eyes were described as bloodshot and glassy. Subsequently, she was arrested and charged for drunk driving. The woman claimed in her defense to the charge that she suffered from auto-brewery syndrome and paid $7,000 for a specialist to prove that the condition was real. The judge accepted her evidence and then dismissed her DUI charge.

Turning food into alcohol

Auto-brewery syndrome, also referred to as gut fermentation syndrome, is a condition where a person's body contains gastrointestinal yeast in large quantities. According to CNN, the yeast then ferments food with starch into ethanol. It is considered rare but is not completely unknown about. Around 10 people have been diagnosed with the syndrome, according to one expert and it is suspected in around 20 others. The syndrome is not completely understood as people with it are still functional with a BAC that measures at .30 or even .40 percent. In the average person, this high level would usually be fatal or put someone into a comatose state.

Symptoms associated with the syndrome

In the New York case, the woman stated that she didn't even know she had the condition until her husband ordered tests and they started researching the cause of her high BAC level. In other people, there may be severe symptoms. Newser related the story of one man who experienced cold sweats, severe nausea, shaky hands, vomiting, headaches, dry mouth and dehydration if he at a lot of carb-rich food. To control the condition, he had to adhere to a diet that eliminated carbs and focused more on vegetables, seeds, meat and nuts.

Seeking legal help

For New Yorkers who are arrested and facing a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, it is important for them to question the cause of their arrest if they feel that there are underlying factors. Therefore, they may find it beneficial to meet with an experienced attorney who can help them conduct a deeper investigation into their situation.