Stopped for a DUI? No problemo!

This story seems timely:

Skeptics may point to the three drinks the woman reportedly admitted consuming in the six hours prior to her arrest, but skeptics are just no fun at all.

I find extremely little in a PubMed research on “auto-brewery syndrome” or “gut fermentation syndrome” (apart from scanty case reports, mostly in children with intestinal abnormalities), but it seems like this might become a thing, as they say.

The physician who reportedly made the diagnosis in the Buffalo-area case has a website describing his emphasis on “integrative” and “functional” medicine, including auto-brewery syndrome and “Candida overgrowth”.

Given the large number of people who are convinced that they are a Candida fungus farm and that the alleged condition is responsible for myriad health complaints, I would expect auto-brewery syndrome to become a much more popular DUI defense in the future. Since there are no accepted diagnostic criteria for “Candida overgrowth”, how would one prove it didn’t lead to endogenous alcohol production and cause a high BAC (assuming the suspect wasn’t seen getting drunk at a local bar or party)?

Well, it shouldn’t matter why you were drunk. The measure for guilt should be whether you were drunk while driving, not how you got drunk.

If a person truly has this condition, where they cannot control if and when they get drunk, then they should not be allowed to have a driver’s license. I would find that an acceptable solution.

According to the article you cite, skeptics tested the woman, and found that after a day with no alcohol ingested, she was still legally intoxicated.

Yep. If she was unaware of her condition before now, she’s innocent of deliberate driving while intoxicated, but in the future, that shouldn’t be the case.

I’m not sure what you mean here. Most healthy adults can consume three drinks in six hours and not be anywhere near the legal definition of intoxication.

I’ve done this experiment before many times (3 drinks in 6hrs) and the result is always “frustratingly sober”

She can control it via her diet. She didn’t know that before, so now she would be expected to control her diet before driving and presumably would be arrested if her blood alcohol level were above the acceptable levels.

Still, I would expect some leniency for her in any randomised stop or breathalyser test where she hadn’t been driving in a dangerous way. If she were, in the future, tested like that and blew just above the acceptable level, she’d have a good argument for being treated differently. It sounds like she has been able to function for years at above the state levels for alcohol percentage in the blood and that’s possibly because having this natural condition doesn’t cause the same impairments as actually drinking alcohol.

You’d also have to consider the many drivers stopped for DUI who say they only had “two beers”.

Testing which was arranged by her lawyer (details of supervision and testing not provided), with the diagnosis made by a practitioner of “alternative, integrative, and functional medicine” who believes standard medical care for chronic disorders is “fundamentally flawed” and subspecializes not only in “auto-brewery syndrome” but also in “Candida overgrowth”.

I see from the story that there are pending cases with this defense in at least two other states, where one assumes that the accused were going around drunk but never noticed it until they were stopped for DUI. I would’ve bet this affliction was vanishingly rare - but with the popularity of “Candida overgrowth”, the “auto-brewery syndrome” defense for DUI promises to be a growth industry.

The article says she had a blood alcohol level of .36 at that point.

According to this chart, .36 represents about the level a 140-pound woman would reach by consuming 10 drinks during an hour’s time.

That’s not just “legally intoxicated”. Effects of a BAC in that range are described as including “stupor, central nervous system depression, loss of understanding, lapses in and out of consciousness, low possibility of death”.

But the woman in the Buffalo-area case never noticed a problem of that dimension until she was pulled over for DUI?


Nit pick: No problema. This is one of those oddball Spanish nouns that, while masculine, ends in “a”. El problema. As is often true of such nouns, it derives from the Greek.

More on this novel defense from the legal (humorist) POV:

The article you posted says the monitoring was done by nurses and a physician’s assistant, and does not talk about the physician’s quacky beliefs; certainly if the “Doctor” practices ‘alternative’ medicine, I’m a lot more suspicious of his diagnosis.

It’s not just skeptics that are no fun at all. :frowning:

Nit-picking a nit-pick:
No problema is not grammatically correct Spanish.
No hay problema is the one

This. I was tested at .38 once, but I was passed out at the hospital. Blowing .36 “sober” means she goes through life heavily impaired. Sounds fishy without her fishy doctor.

Lots of people walk around just fine with a .36…assuming they do so all the time. Chronic alcoholics just aren’t as impaired at the same levels; they develop functional tolerance. I see no reason to believe that she should be different.

Likewise, I see too many diabetics who function daily with blood glucose levels over 400, and actually begin to have hypoglycemic symptoms around 200. It’s amazing how the body will adjust to an otherwise pathological state, as long as it’s always in that state.

I’m not getting the message from the linked article that “lots of people walk around just fine with a .36”. Some key passages:

*"Whereas social drinkers may show clear signs of intoxication at a BAC of 0.10%, such as nausea, slurred speech, and lack of coordination, heavy drinkers at that BAC may not show these signs…

Still, tolerance has its own limitations, for as the drinking career progresses, over days, years and decades, so does liver damage from alcohol’s toxic effects…when liver function declines below a certain threshold, tolerance declines. If the drinking continues, the drinker begins to realize that they can no longer continue to “hold their liquor.”

There is a correlation between BAC and the drug’s behavioral and emotional effects, but there is also considerable variability. For example, tolerance enables some very heavy drinkers to survive BAC levels considered lethal (in the range of 0.40% to 0.50%). Memorable patients with BACs this high have been reported as conscious and able to carry on conversations."*

At a reported blood alcohol level of .36, the potential ability to maintain consciousness and carry on a conversation does not mean the person is “just fine” and unaware of any impairment.

With a blood alcohol level of .36, you definitely wouldn’t be okay. .36 percent is bad enough.

Eh, I don’t know what to say. Science isn’t clear on this, the only peer reviewed literature I’ve found suggests there have been some very rare cases where they’ve seen a person eating a carbohydrate rich diet who ends up with alcohol in their blood despite not having ingested alcohol, but the same study says that the severity of the effect doesn’t line up with BAC > than the legal limit.

There have been a few other cases around the world in which someone has claimed to have this auto-brewer syndrome.

The gut biome has been called one of the last great uncharted areas of the human body, and I don’t think there’s anyone reputable saying “this isn’t possible.” But there’s also not any real science confirming this happens.

I will say though, to support her claims they tested her during a period of time in which she consumed no alcohol and found she still had a high BAC. Regardless of the doctor’s quacky beliefs, how those beliefs might affect his PA or nurse, if they reported those BAC levels or the test procedures falsely to the court then they’ve committed a serious crime. So either that happened, or they legitimately tested her and found that for some reason she had a high BAC despite confirmed non-drinking. That’s at least reason enough in my book to shed doubt on how culpable she should be held for being over the per se limit.

If some of the reports of auto-brewer syndrome are accurate, then the person spends years intoxicated (unknowingly after a time, as they become adapted to high BAC), and they’d suffer severe health side effects from it and probably significantly reduced lifespan. If that’s the reality then I don’t find it unlikely that she’d be essentially “functional” at 0.36, that’s not saying she suffers no side effects of the high BAC, but people that are drunk all the time indeed have dramatically reduced impairment at given BAC levels than someone who isn’t a chronic abuser of alcohol.

Anyway, I’m not sure what to think of this case or auto-brewer syndrome in general, a disorder that I can only find scant information on in peer reviewed literature, the internet, and a poorly sourced Wikipedia page. But, I think that given what we know about the gut, and given that three medical professionals would’ve had to have committed perjury if they falsely reported this defendant had a high BAC despite a testing period in which she consumed no alcohol that it’s more of a “needs further study” than “I’ll assume it’s false” situation, from a skeptical standpoint.

They aren’t making claims that violate any known physical or biological science, for example.

Well, while we’re picking at nits here, shouldn’t the expression actually be “ningún problema”?

Deliberate falsification doesn’t have to enter into it.

One would like to know the level of supervision of this subject (under constant surveillance for the entire testing period?) and whether there’s a possibility of a flawed lab result.

Again (see the previously quoted article) this is not a given, seeing that reduced liver function in a chronic alcohol abuser/someone with a long-term high BAC generally means that they don’t hold their liquor as well as they used to, and possibly become impaired at a lesser exposure than someone who was never a heavy drinker.