“But officer, I swear I wasn't drinking!”
It's a common refrain that police hear every day in Houston. While some drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated might be less than truthful at the time of their arrest, others are genuine. The fact is, many DWI arrests are based on false-positive results. Some of these can involve calibration problems with the breath testing device while others are caused by contaminates that throw off the results. There are other rare causes of “false” positives as well. One of these is a condition known as gut fermentation.
There are other causes of a positive BAC reading in addition to false results. In some unusual and rare medical conditions, the human body can actually ferment alcohol. This condition is informally known as gut fermentation. Gut fermentation, also known as auto-brewery syndrome, has not always been recognized as a legitimate medical condition. Once a myth, researchers have since confirmed that in rare circumstances this condition can occur.
Auto-brewery syndrome occurs when yeast within a person's digestive system begins to ferment. This is the same type of yeast used to brew beer or bake bread, but it is typically not present in the human body. For most people, the bacteria that occur naturally in the stomach eliminates this yeast. However, in certain cases, the bacteria that wipes out the yeast can be eliminated. When this occurs, the yeast flourishes. With enough yeast in the digestive system, it can begin converting carbohydrates into ethanol alcohol. The end result: alcohol in the system of a person that has not had a drink.
While people that suffer from auto-brewery syndrome are not technically intoxicated, the alcohol in their system is real. While their high blood alcohol concentration might be an accurate result, the fact that it did not occur through the consumption of alcoholic beverages means a conviction for DWI would not be appropriate.
Auto-Brewery Syndrome and DWI
Even though a person with auto-brewery syndrome is not under the influence of an intoxicating beverage, it can be difficult for a person to convince law enforcement of that fact. Although this syndrome is rare, it has been used successfully as a defense in some DWI cases.
In 2015, a woman in New York saw her DWI charge dismissed after convincing the court she had gut fermentation. As is common with the disease, the woman registered a blood alcohol concentration reading of more than four times the legal limit. While this reading on a person that was intoxicated would typically leave them nearly catatonic, the woman in this case showed no outward signs of inebriation.
Defending Your Houston DWI
If you have been arrested under suspicion of DWI in Houston, the odds are low that you are suffering from gut fermentation. However, there are countless factors that could lead to a sober person to be arrested for DWI. Attorney Doug Murphy has built his career defending those accused of drinking and driving, and he thoroughly investigates each case to turn up every possible defense. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation right away.