Woman Dodges DWI Charges After Arguing Her Body Brews Alcohol

By McCarton Ackerman 01/18/16

Cases of auto-brewery syndrome are starting to pop up more and more.


A New York woman successfully had DWI charges against her dismissed after managing to successfully prove in court that her body literally brews alcohol.

The Buffalo area-based woman, who is only described for confidentiality reasons as a 35-year-old school teacher, was arrested in October 2014 after blowing a .33, more than four times the legal limit. The arresting officer reported that she had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, but she insisted that she hadn’t consumed more than three drinks in the previous six hours. Her lawyer, Joseph Marusak, argued in court that she suffers from what's known as auto-brewery syndrome, which results in her digestive system converting ordinary food into alcohol.

Marusak had a physician and two nurses monitor the woman for a full day to prove that she drank no alcohol, yet he reported that she blew a .36 without consuming any alcoholic beverages. The woman also bought a breathalyzer and blew into it for 18 consecutive nights, recording an average of .20 each time. After submitting the medical evidence to the judge, the charges were removed on Dec. 9.

"At first glance, it seems like a get-out-of-jail-free card," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. "But it's not that easy. Courts tend to be skeptical of such claims. You have to be able to document the syndrome through recognized testing." Turley also noted that the woman’s defense was only valid because she was unaware that she had auto-brewery syndrome.

But despite seemingly living daily life well above the legal alcohol limit for driving, Marusak insisted that the woman never felt tipsy. She now reportedly has her condition under control through a low-carb diet and is driving without any restrictions.

The first documented case of auto-brewery syndrome came in 2013, when a case study showed that a 61-year-old Texas man was regularly getting debilitatingly drunk without consuming any liquor. Two other DWI cases where auto-brewery syndrome is being used as a defense are currently on trial in Oregon and Texas.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.