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Levitt & Levitt | Because Experience Counts
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How a rare medical condition resulted in a DUI arrest – II

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2016 | Drunk Driving

A few weeks back, our blog began discussing a fascinating story concerning a woman from Upstate New York who was arrested for driving under the influence and found to have an astounding blood alcohol content of 0.33 despite the fact that she had consumed only four alcoholic beverages over a six-hour period, meaning less than one drink per hour.

In today’s post, we’ll continue our discussion of this rather surreal DUI case, learning more about how it was later determined that a rare medical condition accounted for this woman’s abnormally high BAC.

As we stated last time, the woman was taken to an area hospital as a precaution after blowing a 0.33, but doctors wanted to discharge her shortly thereafter owing to the fact that she showed no symptoms of being under the influence.  

Suspecting that something was amiss, the woman’s husband requested that medical staff measure her blood alcohol content several times — hours removed from the initial DUI arrest. Shockingly, they found that her BAC did not decline.

Given the oddity of everything that transpired, the woman’s attorney eventually commissioned a study, having trained medical professionals take blood samples from the woman — who had consumed no alcohol beforehand — at different intervals.

Using the same lab as the state, it was found that the woman’s BAC was double the legal limit at 9:15 a.m., triple the legal limit at 6 p.m. and over four times the legal limit at 8:30 p.m., despite the fact that those tasked with watching her over this timeframe said she bore no indicia of intoxication.

Looking for answers, the attorney consulted with physicians who indicated that the woman was more than likely suffering from auto-brewery syndrome, otherwise known as gut-fermentation syndrome.

This is an incredibly rare medical condition in which abnormally large amounts of gastrointestinal yeast found in the small bowel convert everyday carbohydrates into ethanol (i.e., alcohol).  

As to how a person can function with such abnormally high BACs, medical experts believe it boils down to tolerance.

“These people, since they have a high blood alcohol level on a long-term basis, they may have tolerance and they may be able to function relatively normal with very high blood alcohol levels, where somebody else may be comatose,” said one physician.

Fortunately, this medical evidence ultimately proved persuasive in the woman’s DUI trial, as the judge dismissed the charges.

As for the woman, she is now treating her condition with a regimen of anti-fungal medications, and a specialized diet calling for no alcohol, no sugar and few carbohydrates.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have been arrested for driving under the influence here in Tennessee, as your driving privileges, your reputation and possibly your freedom are at stake. 

State Bar of Georgia
TBA | Tennessee Bar Association
CBA | Chattanooga Bar Association

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