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The rare condition that can lead to strange breath test results

On Behalf of | Feb 4, 2016 | Blood Alcohol Tests |

Most people know that if they choose to drive here in Colorado after they have consumed alcohol, they run the risk of getting pulled over by police and may face DUI charges. It’s for this very reason that a lot of people choose to remain sober before driving or wait several hours to ensure that the alcohol has left their system and is no longer impairing their ability to drive.

Now imagine for a moment that you are one of those people. It’s been hours since you had an alcoholic beverage and you know that you are completely capable of driving. Unfortunately though, you are pulled over by police and given a breath test. But what happens next leaves you shocked: your BAC is more than twice the legal limit. But how can this be? You feel completely fine. Now the question arises: how do you defend against the serious criminal charges you are about to face?

Though situations like this can occur if a person is confused about their level of sobriety, there is another instance in which this may occur as well. Called auto-brewery syndrome, this incredibly rare condition can actually cause a person’s BAC to rise without the person ever having consumed alcohol. In a situation such as the one above, auto-brewery syndrome could easily cause the abnormal breath test reading, leaving anyone in a very difficult position to defend themselves.

According to an NPR article on the subject, auto-brewery syndrome happens when an overabundance of brewer’s yeast takes up residency in a person’s intestinal tract. When carbohydrates are consumed, the bacterium ferment the sugars, causing the release of ethanol. Because this happens on a regular basis, a person with auto-brewery syndrome can develop an incredibly high tolerance to alcohol, meaning they are not affected by it the same way everyone else is.

If you think it’s impossible to prove this as a defense, you’d be wrong. Two cases, one outlined in the NPR article and another recently written about for CNN, prove that the condition not only exists but it can help explain excessive BAC breath tests in some DUI cases. In some cases, as with the one written about in the CNN article, charges may even be dropped because it could be hard to prove impairment because of what the condition does to a person’s body.