Just in time for New Year’s Eve, here’s a novel way to beat DUI charges: claim your body brews its own alcohol. It worked for an upstate New York woman.
As United Press International reports, on October 11, 2014, a 35-year-old woman, whose name has not been made public, was pulled over in Hamburg, New York, for driving erratically. As responding officer Daniel Gallardo said in his report, via the Buffalo News, he responded to a 911 call of a Toyota Corolla “weaving all over the road.” When he stopped the driver, he noticed that she had a flat tire and the vehicle was producing “a large amount of smoke and a noticeable smell of burning rubber.”
Gallardo also noted that the driver, who failed a series of field sobriety tests, had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.
When police gave her a breathalyzer test on the scene, her blood alcohol content (BAC) came in a 0.33, which is three times the legal limit of.08.
This was shocking to the woman, who claimed she hadn’t had a drink in several hours, although she did admit to drinking three cocktails earlier that day. She quickly hired a lawyer, Joseph Marusak.
Marusak said he believed his client’s statement that she’d only had three cocktails hours earlier, a statement corroborated by her husband. Such a small amount of alcohol after such a long period of time would be “nowhere near” enough to produce a BAC of 0.33, he said. He began looking for a possible medical explanation.
Researching the internet, Marusak came across Dr. Barbara Cordell, who had written a study about what she called Auto-brewery syndrome. Dr. Cordell put Marusak into contact with Dr. Anup Kanodia, a physician in Ohio who had treated people for this syndrome.
Under Dr. Kanodia’s care, the woman’s breath was tested several times over the course of a 12-hour period when she was not drinking. Even when she hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol, breathalyzer tests were still showing alarmingly high levels of alcohol in her system.
“Her blood alcohol level was repeatedly measured at very high levels –.279, then.379 and then.40 – extremely high levels. We then took blood samples and refrigerated them, and took them to the Erie County Medical Center lab to be examined. Again, those levels came out extremely high.”
Dr. Kanodia officially diagnosed the woman with gut fermentation syndrome, a rare digestive disease which causes the human digestive system to turn certain foods into alcohol. Essentially, the person is a “human brewery.”
Dr. Kanodia said that some people who suffer from the syndrome can post alarmingly high BAC levels on a standard breathalyzer test but still function normally because their bodies have learned to tolerate the high alcohol.
“They are legally drunk, but they are walking around. They are functioning. There are people who get drunk without drinking any alcohol at all.”
Armed with his research and Dr. Kanodia’s diagnosis, Marusak and his client appeared before Judge Walter L. Rooth. He dismissed all charges.
Many races are still too close to call. Here, Hamburg supervisor candidate Walter L. Rooth looks over returns. pic.twitter.com/1MmzB0Vhym
— The Buffalo News (@TheBuffaloNews) November 6, 2013
The woman has since learned to manage her condition due to changes in her diet.
Meanwhile, Hamburg Police Chief Gregory G. Wickett says his officer made the right call in pulling the woman over for DUI that night, saying that it’s not his department’s job to diagnose medical conditions.
“She was highly intoxicated, as shown by the Breathalyzer. Our officers did the right thing in getting her off the road. Whether she has a medical issue that caused it is not for me to decide.”
Prosecutors hope to reinstate charges against the woman.
[Image via Shutterstock/www.BillionPhotos.com]