There 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