Could a medical condition affect your DUI charge?

Yes. There are a number of medical conditions that could affect your breathalyzer reading. If you suspect that your breath test came out unusually high, you should discuss the situation with your criminal defense attorney, as there may be an innocent explanation for at least some of your blood alcohol content.

One of the more interesting medical conditions that has an effect on breath tests is called auto-brewery syndrome. It’s quite rare, but it causes sufferers to create their own alcohol from carbohydrates in their digestive system.

Recently, Vice news discussed the case of an Ohio man who was arrested with a blood alcohol content of 0.325% — over four times the legal limit in most states of 0.08%. According to the suspect, he had ingested merely one glass of wine before being involved in a serious accident involving another vehicle. And, he had something of an alibi. Just before the crash that led to his arrest, he had called his mother and offered to make a pickup at the grocery store. She says he didn’t slur his words or seem drunk at all during the phone call.

In his case, the judge apparently wasn’t moved by the possibility that the 0.325% blood alcohol reading might be the result of a legitimate medical condition. The Ohio man pled to aggravated assault and sentenced to two years in prison

Although patients of Auto-brewery syndrome don’t seem to suffer the full effects of their high blood-alcohol levels, they still don’t want to be walking around drunk all the time. Major dietary changes to eliminate certain carbohydrates are necessary to keep the syndrome under control.

After his DUI, the Ohio man submitted to tests to see if he indeed had auto-brewery syndrome. The tests included being quarantined at a hospital for over 24 hours while his blood alcohol levels were repeatedly tested. Even though he had consumed no alcohol, his blood alcohol levels fluctuated dramatically over the course of the study.

In another case, a New York woman was arrested with a blood alcohol content of 0.33%. She had slurred speech, failed a roadside sobriety test and was weaving around the road due to a flat tire. Her attorney brought in an auto-brewery syndrome expert to diagnose her and ultimately got her DUI charge dropped.

Talk to your attorney about your concerns

The consequences for a DUI conviction in Tennessee are harsh. You should never plead guilty to DUI without a defense lawyer’s advice. Even if the case against you seems solid, there could be facts and circumstances that make a big difference to the outcome. The key is for you to make sure your defense attorney knows about them.

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