New York Judge Throws Out DWI Charges After Determining Teacher Suffers From “Auto-Brewery Syndrome”

imagesThere is a fascinating DWI case out of New York involving a case of a 35-year-old school teacher who was arrested after driving with a flat tire and a blood alcohol content of .33 g/dL. Judge Walter L. Rooth dismissed misdemeanor charges of DWI and aggravated DWI after agreeing with the defense that the woman has the rare condition known as auto-brewery syndrome, where her body turns ordinary food and beverages into alcohol in a person’s body like a brewery.

This is not some new “Twinkie defense” or cunning defense tactic. This syndrome has been well documented and addressed in other cases and in other countries.

The rare intestinal disorder is caused by a saturation of yeast in the system of some people (which is why it is also called “gut fermentation syndrome”). Notably, the woman admitted to having three drinks that day with her parents in Buffalo but that would not have been enough to register such a high BAC. The police insist that she appeared incredibly intoxicated and registered the level on a Breathalyzer. Indeed, witnesses called police because of a car “weaving all over” the road. She could not recite the alphabet or perform other sobriety tests. The police officer said that he could smell the burning rubber from the tires. The prosecutors are appealing the ruling.

Notably, it was her defense attorney who sent her for tests because the confirmed drinks would not have yielded this BAC. It reportedly required 40 hours of work and about $7,000 on medical evidence to prove the condition.

Even if this condition is accepted, however, there remains the question of whether such people should be given licenses if they cannot detect a “flare” of the syndrome. After all, if she is still functioning as if drunk, she is still driving under the influence of alcohol. Her voluntary act may not have been consuming the requisite amount of alcohol but driving in such a condition. Clearly, a person may not intend to do so if such “flares” occur without warning. Moreover, if she was not previously diagnosed, she would have had no reason to know. In such a case, I am okay with the ruling but there must still be a determination on her ability to drive. It may be a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that the charges were dropped. The bad news is that the defense itself may mean that she cannot drive absent some medical corrective intervention.

What do you think?

Source: Buffalo News

75 thoughts on “New York Judge Throws Out DWI Charges After Determining Teacher Suffers From “Auto-Brewery Syndrome””

  1. Karen, In Austin, TX. a 16 year old named Ethan Couch, drove very drunk[.033] and killed 4 people. The defense attorney used the Affluenza defense, saying his indulgent parents never taught him right from wrong. The liberal judge bought it and put the kid on probation. Well, a video appeared online of this sh!tbird drunk playing beer pong, in violation of his probation. The liberal judge who sentenced him did not run again. There was such an outrage @ the sentencing 2 years ago, and then this violation, the kid and mommy fled a couple weeks ago. The kid and mommy were just found in Puerta Vallarta.

  2. She needs to massively change her diet, like Hildegard noted. Step away from the Standard American Diet, ma’am, step away.

    A good Functional Medicine doctor would be able to help her with the SIBO, too.

  3. Furthermore.

    There is nothing wrong with self-reliance. Nothing wrong with personal responsibility. All good things.

    But all I ever see is conservatives talking about OTHER people needing to be responsible, usually poor people, minimum wage workers, and so on. They don’t seem to want to be responsible themselves. Perpetual hypocrisy.

  4. Olly
    Please cite a few examples of conservatives taking responsibility for, well, anything. I’m talking personal responsibility here.
    A agree that Congress in general is a bunch of self-serving borderline criminals. I see a lot of conservatives pointing fingers but not owning up to their own mistakes. I don’t think progressives in public life are that much better at it, but they are not the ones constantly preaching and pointing fingers.

  5. Pray tell, how is a medical bracelet going to solve the problem? You mean that the morgue is going to have to cut it off of her wrist after she is brought there? After she has wrapped her car around a tree? The bracelet doesn’t prevent her from getting behind the wheel, unless, of course, it gets caught on the door. A medical bracelet solves nothing. Either this ghastly condition can be controlled through diet and/or medication or it can’t. Plain and simple. If it can–and I truly hope that it can–allow her to maintain her license. I happen to think that she should be required to install an ignition interlock device in her personal vehicle, which would allow her to drive the vehicle only when it was safe to do so. If this woman can successfully raise the issue of her rare intestinal disorder to evade criminal charges then she should have no problems, whatsoever, when the state raises those same medical issues to demand certain requirements on her part before heading down the road.

    1. bam bam – if she is blowing a .3 she should be seeing doctors immediately. The medical alert bracelet lets them know something is happening to her system and they will not treat her for the wrong thing.

      1. Paul C

        Was point was simple:

        While a medical bracelet could alert physicians and other healthcare workers as to a pre-existing condition–which is always beneficial–that bracelet, alone, does nothing to prevent her from driving. That’s the issue here. Unless that bracelet has been magically empowered to prevent her from driving, the bracelet is nothing more than an extra measure of safety for her in case of a medical emergency. I get that. I’m more concerned with her behavior BEFORE that bracelet is checked by paramedics–before she has been peeled out of a crushed vehicle. By all means, she should wear any type of object which warns of her medical ailment.

        1. bam bam – I am personally against state mandated personal strictures. She is 35, this appears to have been her first recognized incident. I might want to take my own car rather than travel with her, but any modifications of diet, car, driving restrictions, should be hers to make.

  6. phillyT,
    You are being intellectually dishonest if you believe this is only a conservative “in Congress” condition. That institution doesn’t take responsibility for anything and the progressives from both major parties have created a culture dependent on them. So essentially we have People dependent on a government that is dependent on the People and those conservatives that want to break this cycle are vilified for “clinging to a political theory” of a bygone era. What is wrong with promoting self-reliance over dependency?

  7. JMRJ

    You should be screaming, but mostly at yourself for being a rather dim-witted bulb. Obviously, reading comprehension is not one of your strong points. She did NOT, in fact, recite the alphabet correctly. Learn to read and comprehend the words as they are written. Don’t substitute your illogical and warped ideas for the facts in the situation. Unlike you, I do not allow my IMAGINATION to guide me. Learn to read. It would do you some good.

    You also state that she would have no idea as to the source of her “wooziness” if she had consumed no alcohol–read the article, Einstein–she admitted to imbibing in three drinks that day, which may, very well, have acted to exacerbate her medical condition. Note that those are the drinks that she would agree to take responsibility for that day–my suspicion is that she may have indulged in more than those three drinks. Most people, when stopped on suspicion of a DWI, do not accurately indicate how many drinks that they have consumed.

    You fail to grasp the most simple of concepts. Anyone, with limitations–whatever the source of those limitations–where said limitations render that person incapable of fully functioning behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, has a RESPONSIBILITY and a DUTY to refrain from getting behind that wheel. Period. Bringing on that incapacity voluntarily is not the only determining factor. Certain medical conditions, even if not voluntarily acquired or induced, prohibit individuals from driving. What part of that don’t you get? Grandma and Grandpa may have their licenses taken at a certain point, even if they have not VOLUNTARILY contributed to their decline in motor skills, agility and coordination. By no fault of their own they may be rendered incapable of functioning behind the wheel, where time and age have robbed them of some of their abilities.

    Get a grip and learn to read. It’s fundamental.

    1. From the Buffalo News article, “Bam Bam”:

      “Although the driver was able to recite the alphabet at the officer’s request, she had trouble with several other sobriety tests, including standing on one foot and talking and turning heel-to-toe, Gallardo reported.”

      Perhaps you should stick to Flintstones re-runs.

  8. Nick:

    I agree that now that she knows she has this condition, she must be personally responsible for not getting behind a wheel if she suffers a flareup. Before she was diagnosed, she may have blown off initial symptoms to just feeling tired, until she had enough alcohol in her system that her judgement was impaired. Now she knows, it’s on her.

    Tell me about the affluenza case. I missed it! We’re not raising enough bootstrap kids in this generation.

  9. One other thing I want to point out is that Gut Fermentation Syndrome can flare up in adulthood. Someone with no previous history can suddenly begin to exhibit symptoms. I also agree with Paul that a medical alert bracelet is a good idea. I am unsure how much warning a sufferer would get before alcohol started pouring into their system and circumvented their decision center. Like a diabetic, they are responsible for pulling over if they start to feel symptoms. But I still think a breathalyzer or something similar is a proactive way to stay safe, even after they reach remission, just like a diabetic uses tester strips.

  10. Alcohol is not a required factor. The charge can be impaired driving. Anything VOLUNTARILY consumed that causes one to be impaired, should be cause for a traffic or criminal charge. There are many medications that should not be taken prior to driving. One should not drive if suffering from a migraine or other transient conditions that cause an IMPAIRMENT.

    Olly, personal responsibility is something liberals abhor. Some seem to actually not even understand the concept. I’m hoping the Affluenza kid in the Mexican jail gets some fanny love. He might get it then!

  11. Olly, if only it were so.

    Conservatives in Congress never ever make rules that apply to themselves.
    The entire Bush administration was populated by nejust don’t ocons and profiteers who TO THIS DAY take zero responsibility for being asleep at the switch leading up to 9/11, or the entire disaster that was the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    They are quick to blame Secretary Clinton for what happened in Benghazi, but they never held even one hearing for the 60 embassy deaths that occurred under Bush.

    I just don’t see any effort on the part of conservatives to take responsibility, generally speaking, but they are quick to point fingers elsewhere.

  12. This condition is tragically very real. Sufferers are still suffering from the effects of excessive alcohol consumption, even though their body made the alcohol itself. That includes liver damage. What is especially tragic is that such people can experience all the repercussions of severe alcoholics – losing relationships, jobs, friends, and having a string of DUIs, all while at a loss to explain how it keeps happening.

    I agree that all criminal charges should be dropped, because she was innocent of consumption. However, she should not be allowed to drive anymore than someone who has a condition that would cause flareups of total blindness, until she reaches remission. Gut Fermentation Syndrome is so rare, that I am unsure if it can flare up again once a treatment series knocks it out. A doctor should clear her, and to be safe, they should install a breathalyzer to any car they drive out of an abundance of caution. I believe that they cannot consume alcohol – including chocolate liqueur and alcohol sugars, at all, for life, because they are associated with flareups.

  13. Seriously JMRJ, our culture today is rampant with people unable or unwilling to take personal responsibility for anything. The government for instance is the most loathed of all institutions yet they are reelected time and again at a clip of nearly 90%. So of the approximately 50% of eligible voters that take the time to vote, they use poor judgment and make poor choices again and again AND then blame the institution but not themselves. Now THAT is ignorance.

  14. Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.Poor choices; poor judgment.

  15. Bam bam, partly you’re missing the point, and partly you’re just ignorant, or lacking in imagination. People who have a lot of alcohol in their system at all times, like alcoholics, develop a high tolerance for it and are functional at BAC levels that would probably kill other people. Indeed, at a certain point the alcoholic has to maintain a high BAC to avoid convulsions and other withdrawal symptoms.

    The woman feels “woozy” a lot, but it would never occur to most people that this woozy feeling could be intoxication when they haven’t drunk anything. Some people might be better at putting two and two together than her, but that is hardly a criterion for branding her a criminal.

    If you read the article you’ll see that she passed the alphabet test. At .33% BAC!

    This is plainly a case where the person has no “personal responsibility” for her condition, at least not in the criminal sense. You want the system to impose responsibility where there is none. You an a lot of others commenting here are apparently personal responsibility fetishists.

    Aside from that, if I read the phrases “poor choices” or “poor judgment” one more time I’m going to scream.

  16. The “great job by her attorney” part is true; she skated on this one, and, by the grace of God, alone, she didn’t end up in the morgue or succeed in taking down a family of five with her. I find it difficult to fathom that this was the first instance in this 35 year old’s life that she was alerted as to her obvious problem. She may have, indeed, been clueless as to the CAUSE of her intoxication, but the extremely and excessively high BAC found in her system indicates a pattern. Most of us–ok, the ones who are not alcoholics–would’ve been out, like a light, cold and unresponsive, with a BAC of .33. The mere fact that she could even manage to function, at all, with a BAC of .33, indicates that she has, over time, built up some degree of tolerance to these elevated levels of alcohol in her system. How has she managed to teach in the New York City schools all of this time? I can only imagine. The bottom line is that those with driving privileges–not driving “rights”– have the indisputable responsibility for not climbing behind the wheel of a lethal weapon, also known as a car, when those same people are rendered incapacitated. Said incapacity takes various forms.

  17. School teacher can teach a new course: Western medicine and the magic frog of the Amazon.
    Lick monkey frogs, take a trip and be healed. Dr. Mark Plotkin explains process in video.

  18. “Conservatives love personal responsibility as long as it applies to everyone else as well.”

    There, I fixed it for you phillyT.

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