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Is auto-brewery syndrome a valid defense against DUI charges?

In the last few decades, a growing number of people have taken up the hobby of home brewing, purchasing kits that allow individuals to make their own beer not found anywhere else. But what if there was a form of home brewing that didn't require any external devices? Would you be more inclined to take it up as a hobby?

If you're like those with auto-brewery syndrome, your answer might actually be no. That's because this rare and mostly unheard of condition causes a person's body to turn carbohydrates and sugars into ethanol, which then causes their blood-alcohol level to rise. While it might seem wonderful that simply eating food could make you intoxicated, it can actually lead to serious criminal charges.

We'd like our Virginia readers to consider for a moment a recent case out of New York where a woman was charged with a DUI after she is said to have blown a BAC that was "more than four times the legal limit." Unbeknownst to the arresting officer, and perhaps even the woman herself, she was suffering from auto-brewery syndrome. If it hadn't been for the persistence of her attorney, her condition might have never been discovered and the charges against her might never have been dismissed by a judge last month.

Though this woman's case shows that it is possible to use auto-brewery syndrome as a defense in drunk driving cases, it's important to point out two things:

The first is that this condition is incredibly rare. According to Barbara Cordell, Panola College's dean of nursing, only about 10 people have been diagnosed with the condition that she knows of. Second, a person must be able to prove either through diagnosis or scientific study that they are living with this condition before they can use it as a valid defense to excessive BAC readings in criminal proceedings.

Though the condition does present a unique defense to drunk driving charges, it's not one everyone will be able to use.

Source: CNN Health, "Woman claims her body brews alcohol, has DUI charge dismissed," Sandee LaMotte, Jan. 1, 2016

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