Auto-Brewery Syndrome and DWIs in Texas Courts
A woman in New York recently beat drunken-driving charges in New York State based on an extremely unusual defense: Her body brews alcohol in her stomach.
You read that right. Her body is a brewery. I know, I know. Lucky her. But it is caused by a real disease known as Auto-Brewery Syndrome. For people who have the disorder, when they eat high-carbohydrate meals, the yeast in their stomach ferments the food and turns it into alcohol. That alcohol is then absorbed into the blood stream and they become, for all intents and purposes, intoxicated.
As for the New York woman, she registered an impressive .33 BAC with a breathalyzer after she was pulled over because of her erratic driving. According to nbcdfw.com, she claims she only had three drinks in the hours before her stop, but the cops didn’t believe that story. But that is when she discovered she had auto-brewery disorder and the town judge dismissed the drunken-driving charges after she presented evidence of the condition.
According to Huffington Post, in 2013 a Texas man blew a .37 at a hospital after he came in complaining of dizziness. The crazy thing is that he claims he hadn’t had a drink all day. Not one. Needless to say, nobody believed his story. But after researchers Barbara Cordell and Justin McCarthy tested the Texas man, they found a common type of yeast was building up in his intestinal tract and caused starch to ferment sugar, which inevitably turned into ethanol. Essentially, the man’s stomach had become a miniature brewery. Eat a bagel, get a little tipsy. Eat a plate of Spaghetti, get hammered.
Over the past several years, auto-brewery syndrome has gained medical and media attention and a surprising but not unnatural result of this is that it is turning up in DWI cases. In Texas, there are, according to the same nbcdfw.com article cited above, at least two DWI cases pending in Texas courts where auto-brewery syndrome is being used as a defense to prosecution, but at this time there is no precedent that auto-brewery syndrome is a defense in DWIs.
Although Texas courts have rejected many DWI defenses, such as alcoholism and involuntary intoxication, it only seems right that a Texas court would accept evidence of this rare condition, but there is no current precedent to tell us one way or another. There could be an answer soon, however, because according to Dr. Kanodia, the Ohio doctor who diagnosed the New York woman with auto-brewery syndrome said there is a DWI case pending in the State, which could provide some guidance on using the defense in the future.