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WELL THIS IS A unique strategy. Drunken-driving charges against an upstate New York woman have been dismissed based on an unusual defense: Her body is a brewery. The woman 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,” in which her digestive system converts ordinary food into alcohol, her lawyer Joseph Marusak said. A judge dismissed the drunken-driving charges in December after Marusak presented a doctor’s research showing the woman had the previously undiagnosed condition in which high levels of yeast in her intestines fermented high-carbohydrate foods into alcohol. The rare condition, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, was first documented in the 197Os in Japan, and both medical and legal experts in the US say it is being raised more frequently in drunken-driving cases as it is becomes more known. Or more people try to take advantage of it.

“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.” The condition was first documented in the US by Barbara Cordell of Panola College in Texas, who published a case study in 2O13 of a 61-year-old man who had been experiencing episodes of debilitating drunkenness without drinking liquor. Marusak contacted Cordell for help with his client who claimed she hadn’t had more than three drinks in the six hours before she was pulled over for erratic driving in October of 2O14. The woman was charged with driving while intoxicated when a Breathalyzer test showed her blood-alcohol content to be O.33 percent. A doctor eventually diagnosed the woman with auto-brewery syndrome and prescribed a low-carbohydrate diet that brought the situation under control.

During the long wait for an appointment, Marusak arranged to have two nurses and a physician’s assistant monitor his client 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. He said the woman also bought a Breathalyzer and blew into it every night for 18 days, registering around .2O every time. While people in past cases described by Cordell sought help because they felt drunk and didn’t know why, Marusak said that his client had no idea she had this condition and never felt inebriated. Marusak submitted medical evidence of his client’s condition to the judge, who dismissed the DWI charges.