Orange County Criminal Defense

DUI Dismissed Due to Auto-Brewery Syndrome

In upstate New York, a judge dismissed DUI charges against a woman when evidence showed that she suffers from “auto-brewery syndrome.”  When she was initially pulled over, she blew a blood alcohol level that was over four times the legal limit.  Her attorney, who has never even heard of such a syndrome, knew something was amiss when the hospital police wanted to release her immediately because she wasn’t exhibiting any symptoms.  Because of this, her attorney did some research of his own and came across auto-brewery syndrome.  According to Barbara Cordell, the Dean of Nursing at Panola

College who studies this syndrome, those with auto-brewery syndrome, “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, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, is a process that takes place in the gastrointestinal system where the carbohydrates one consumes are converted into alcohol, fermented by bacteria. 

In order to prove that this woman suffers from this syndrome and wasn’t driving under the influence, her attorney hired two physician assistants and a person who is trained in breathalyzers to watch her and take blood alcohol levels over a twelve hour period and had it run at the same lab used by the prosecution.  The findings show that without any drinks, her blood level was double the legal limit at 9:15 am, triple the limit at 6 pm, and more than four times the legal limit at 8:30 pm, which correlated with the same time of day that the police pulled her over. 

Another strange observation was that the woman showed no signs of the levels until she reached a blood alcohol level of between 0.30 and 0.40, which is when she started to feel a little wobbly on her feet.  Although the judge dismissed this case, the DA’s office may file an appeal.  The DA has confirmed a review of the judge’s decision is underway but has not commented further on the case.

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