DUI: Can I use Auto-Brewery Syndrome as a defense?

Question: I barely drink at all. I mean, if I have six beers a year that’s a lot for me. I gave up drinking after I saw my mom passed out in the kitchen wearing only a robe about five years ago.

She would drink wine all day and night and sometimes she’d just drop and spend the night or the afternoon passed out, sometimes in a pool of her own vomit and urine. She’d get together during the day with her girlfriends and they’d drink and party and play tennis, and then drink some more. After a while they’d be all buzzed up and then they’d drive home. Eventually one of her friends drove off the road and into a tree and died. It was really sad. And even at the wake the dead ladies’ friends got drunk.

I was headed down that path myself so I pretty much quit the alcohol. I even joined AA and became someone’s sponsor.

That’s why I can’t believe I got a DUI over the weekend in Marietta and I need a great Cobb County DUI lawyer like I heard you guys are. I admit I had maybe five beers and a couple of shots of whiskey, but I haven’t partied like that for some time. It was Cinco de Mayo and a friend’s birthday and I just drank a bunch. When I drove home I was stopped and the cop said I was speeding and he smelled it on my breath, I guess, so he asked me to get out of the car and then he arrested me for DUI and took me to the Cobb County jail.

I’ve been reading on the internet about something called Auto-Brewery syndrome. It’s where your body makes alcohol and you get drunk even if you haven’t been drinking. I thought maybe I could use it as a defense and say I have it and that I was only DUI because of the disease.

By the way, when I took the breath test I got a .184. I just don’t know how that number is so high. I don’t think I was drinking all that much and I think told the cop I only had a couple of beers and that I drank over six or seven hours, but my memories of the night and the arrest are not clear.

S.V. in Powder Springs, GA

Answer:  Auto-Brewery syndrome, also known as Gut Fermentation Syndrome or intestinal candida infection, has been in the news lately. This is a very rare condition that causes someone to become intoxicated or drunk not from drinking alcohol, but from yeast build-up in their intestines. 

The yeast in the intestines builds up to the point to where just having a soft drink or other sugary food or beverage can cause a reaction that is like having many alcoholic drinks. A person with the syndrome will become “drunk” and often exhibit manifestations of someone who has been drinking heavily, with slurred speech, loss of balance, dizziness and other indications of intoxication.

Having a certain amount of yeast in the body is mostly a very positive thing. Yeast helps with digestion, it may prevent diarrhea, and it seems to help your immune system. But for people suffering from Auto-Brewery syndrome, too much yeast is a major problem.

However, to use the syndrome as a DUI defense, you would need to get tested and have a medical doctor diagnose you with it. However, you mention that you were drinking prior to your arrest. We’d like to know if you told the Cobb police that you were drinking. If you did, that would obviously hurt your chances of using the syndrome as a potential legal defense. In any event, we always do an investigation of the evidence to see what potential defenses to DUI exist.

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