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Auto-Brewery Syndrome

Although rarely applicable, the auto-brewery syndrome might be a defense to DUI charges in Florida. Auto-brewery syndrome is a bizarre and extremely rare medical condition that causes the body to produce alcohol.

The condition, also known as “gut fermentation syndrome” or “endogenous ethanol fermentation,” often goes undiagnosed for years.

To successfully present the defense at trial, the condition needs to be diagnosed by a physician, pharmacologist, or another type of medical professional. The medical professional might then be used to provide expert testimony at a pre-trial hearing or at trial.

What is Auto-Brewery Syndrome?

The syndrome causes the body’s digestive system to produce ethanol through endogenous fermentation. One pathogen for the syndrome is saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of yeast. 

Recent studies have shown that non-alchoholic fatty liver disease can be accelerated by Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria fermenting carbohydrates to alcohol in the gut. The syndrome might also be linked to patients of short bowel syndrome after surgical resection.

Another form of the syndrome prevents patients from excreting or breaking down alcohol normally because of liver abnormalities. The liver abnormalities might cause symptoms of auto-brewery syndrome even when the amount of alcohol being produced in the body is too small to intoxicate a healthy individual.

Symptoms of the syndrome seemingly random states of intoxication with disorientation and dizziness. To diagnosis the disorder, patients are often instructed to repeat blood or breath testing throughout the day to document that alcohol concentration fluctuations are occurring.

Auto-Brewery Syndrome as a DUI Defense

The auto-brewery syndrome might lead to a DUI arrest since it causes patients to have a breath or blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit even though no alcoholic beverage was consumed.

The distinction is important because Florida’s DUI statute, Section 316.193(1)(a), defines DUI as being under the influence of “alcoholic beverages.” The requirement that the alcohol come from a beverage would distinguish it from alcohol produced within the body by a medical condition.

For DUI cases prosecuted under Section 316.193(1)(b) or (c), it must be providences that the person blood or breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more. But even in these cases, an “involuntary intoxication defense“could be asserted.

Courts in Florida have found that the involuntary intoxication defense applied to DUI cases. See Carter v. State, 710 So.2d 110 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998); Devers-Lopez v. State, 710 So.2d 720 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998).

To find out more about the best defenses for DUI cases in Tampa, FL, contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm. Call 813-250-0500.

This article was last updated on Friday, July 2, 2021.