US & Canada

New York drink driver says her body is a brewery

"Auto-brewery syndrome" is being used as defence in drink driving cases Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption "Auto-brewery syndrome" is being used as defence in drink driving cases

A US woman in New York state has avoided drink-driving charges after arguing that she suffers from a rare condition called "auto-brewery syndrome".

The 35-year-old schoolteacher told the court that her digestive system sometimes converts food into alcohol.

After her arrest, her doctor conducted tests that found that high levels of yeast in her intestines ferment high-carbohydrate foods.

Prosecutors are seeking to have the charges against the woman reinstated.

"She can register a blood alcohol content that would have you or I falling down drunk, but she can function," her lawyer Joseph Marusak told the Buffalo News.

Mr Marusak declined to name his client, citing medical confidentiality laws.

Four times the limit

The woman was arrested near Buffalo in October 2014 after police said she was driving erratically. A Breathalyzer test showed that her blood-alcohol level more than four times the legal limit.

The arresting officer said she failed several field sobriety tests.

Medical and legal experts say the condition, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, is being raised more frequently as a defence in drink-driving cases.

"At first glance, it seems like a get-out-of-jail-free card," Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, told the Associated Press. "But it's not that easy. Courts tend to be sceptical of such claims. You have to be able to document the syndrome through recognized testing."

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