A DUI defense I have raised, albeit rarely, pertains to the “Auto Brewery Syndrome” or, as is referred to by the medical community, “Bladder Beer” and “Gut Fermentation Syndrome”. The DUI criminal defense attorney thereafter argues to the prosecutor and to the court that the defendant’s body gets drunk even if they didn’t drink alcohol. This defense comes to light after an officer stops a driver with this condition and charges them with a DUI and the driver truthfully denies drinking alcohol or has had very little alcohol to drink but registers a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
This syndrome is a rare (very rare) medical condition in which yeast (such as candida) inside the digestive system ferments carbohydrates and generates enough alcohol to cause intoxication. The effects of the syndrome can have a serious effect on the everyday life of the person with the disease because the symptoms are very similar to that of a person who has been drinking. The symptoms may include, but are not limited to, bouts of goofiness, dizziness, hangovers, disorientation, dry mouth, chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety, and depression.
To understand Auto Brewery Syndrome one has to understand how the body generates alcohol. Yeast fermenting in the person’s digestive system causes the carbohydrates to be turned into alcohol inside the person’s body in a process called endogenous ethanol production. Endogenous ethanol production is a normal process which produces alcohol inside every person, including people who do not drink alcohol. Through this process the normal person may generate very small but measurable levels of alcohol in their blood typically much less than 0.004 blood alcohol concentration (BAC). To get a significant measurable level of alcohol from this process requires increased fermentation and/or a diminished ability to metabolize alcohol.Typically, neither the officer nor the person charged with a DUI are aware that the person suffers from Gut Fermentation Syndrome: the officer either makes a safety investigation stop to assist a disabled vehicle or a traffic stop. The traffic stops are generally valid, such as when the officer observes a vehicle driver exhibiting at least one of the known visual DUI detection clues or some other traffic infraction, such as speeding or failing to comply with a traffic control device. Many of the visual DUI detection clues officers look for include but are not be limited to: weaving, swerving, nearly colliding with another vehicle, unexplained speeding up or slowing down, driving well below the posted speed limit, stopping in the lane of travel for no reason, driving without headlights at night, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, turning in a wide radius, experiencing difficulty parking, stopping well before or after the traffic light intersection marked line, driving over the dividing line, driving over the fog line, or improperly changing lane.
In their reports, the officer alleges that the driver had the odor of alcohol about their person, had bloodshot and watery eyes, and either experienced difficulty performing the standardized field sobriety tests or simply failed them. And as is also typical the officer refuses to believe that the driver after they informed the officer they had nothing alcoholic to drink. But it tends to be the DUI defense lawyers who research and investigate their client’s claims who find out about Gut Fermentation Syndrome and thereafter have their clients evaluated.
Even though it’s very rare for a person to suffer with this condition, the syndrome is getting more attention on the internet. A few of the stories covering individuals with this syndrome include: Woman gets out of DWI because her body is a 'brewery', Drunk Without Alcohol: Strange Condition Ferments Food in Gut, Man's gut fermented food into alcohol, making him drunk, case study finds
As would be expected with the Beer Bladder defense, the Kentucky DUI criminal defense attorney will require expert medical testimony to explain this condition to the court and to the jury. But even with medical testimony, ignorance that the person is impaired while operating a motor vehicle in the state of Kentucky is not necessarily a defense to the charge of DUI. The reason is that Kentucky DUI law does not include intent.The Kentucky DUI statue KRS 189A.010(1)(a) states in part, "A person shall not operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere in this state: (a) Having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more ...." Of more concern is how the statute applies to drivers under 21 and therefore subject them to Kentucky's zero-tolerance law since there is a greater likelihood that the BAC level caused by this syndrome would below the legal limit of 0.08 BAC but above 0.02 BAC. KRS 189A.010(1)(f) states in part,"A person shall not operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere in this state: (f) Having an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or more ...". Ultimately, the validity of this defense will fall on the Kentucky DUI lawyer arguments about the evidence of the medical condition to the jury.