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An Unusual Defence to Drink Driving – Drunk on Carbohydrates!

An American court has accepted a novel defence of “auto brewery syndrome” from a lady charged with drink driving. As such the drink driving charge against her was dismissed thus avoiding a driving ban or penalty of any kind.

The female driver relied on expert evidence from a doctor who determined that high carbohydrate food would ferment in her body turning to alcohol. This meant that she would show a relatively high reading of alcohol in her body even when she had not had anything to drink. It was enough to put her over the limit but on this occasion she admitted to having consumed three drinks over the course of an afternoon.

The New York case is also unusual because the driver did not feel any effects from the alcohol. I assume that if her body behaved like that on a daily basis, it is no wonder she didn’t feel drunk as she may believe the feeling to be normal. Perhaps her body had built up a certain tolerance to alcohol so that it would take more than usual for her to feel ‘tipsy’. The condition was previously undiagnosed so she had no warning that she was effectively driving over the limit.

Apparently she’s now on a low carbohydrate diet to prevent the rise of alcohol in her blood. If she was caught again, it is doubtful that she’d be allowed to use the same defence again. Drivers who are aware that they have medical conditions that are likely to hinder their ability to drive are expected not to drive whilst their symptoms persist.

Since the change in the way that court hearings are conducted, defendants are no longer allowed to ‘ambush’ the prosecution. This means that defences put forward at the last minute are either not allowed or will result in an adjournment. The technology used by the police is more accurate but human error still occurs. As a result, there are fewer successful challenges to drink drive allegations nowadays. This defence is a novel one and I wonder how long it will be before this defence will be used in a drink driving case on this side of the Atlantic.