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A woman in New York discovered she has a body brewery after facing drunken driving charges, according to the Associated Press. Her charge was dismissed based on the defense that she has a rare condition: her body converts carbohydrates to alcohol.
The condition is documented and has been used in DUI defenses before. But it is rare and dismissal of criminal charges is not based on a mere assertion. Her lawyer, Joseph Marusak, explained to reporters this week how she came to discover the condition and how he convinced the court.
Marusak's client was arrested while driving with a blood-alcohol level more than four times the legal limit. She then discovered she has a rare condition called auto-brewery syndrome. Her digestive system converts ordinary food into alcohol.
The lawyer went to great lengths to learn this. His client claimed she was not driving drunk and he went on the hunt for an explanation of her absurdly high blood alcohol content, or BAC.
The client insisted she hadn't had more than three drinks in the six hours before she was pulled over for erratic driving in October, 2014. A Breathalyzer test showed her blood-alcohol content to be 0.33 percent.
The lawyer contacted Barbara Cordell of Panola College in Texas, who had written about a 61-year-old man experiencing episodes of debilitating drunkenness without drinking liquor. Professor Cordell referred Marusak to a Dr. Anup Kanodia of Columbus, Ohio, and in the interim the lawyer monitored his client.
Marusak arranged to have two nurses and a physician's assistant watch her for a day to document she drank no alcohol, and to take several blood samples for testing. "At the end of the day, she had a blood-alcohol content of .36 without drinking any alcoholic beverages," Marusak said. She also bought a Breathalyzer and blew into it every night for 18 days, registering around .20 every time. The legal limit in New York is 0.08.
A town judge in Hamburg dismissed the drunken-driving charges this month after Marusak presented research showing the woman had the previously undiagnosed condition: high levels of yeast in her intestines fermented high-carbohydrate foods into alcohol. Her diet is now regulated and she has no conditions or restriction placed on her driving.