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Not everyone who fails a breath test has been drinking

On Behalf of | Oct 28, 2019 | Criminal Defense |

Police departments in Kentucky and around the country use breath-testing equipment to determine whether or not drivers are operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. These devices use breath samples to determine an individual’s blood alcohol concentration, but they do not always paint a complete picture. There are a number of medical conditions that can influence a person’s BAC, and there is one that can lead to significantly elevated blood alcohol levels even when not a drop of alcohol has been consumed.

The condition is known as auto-brewery syndrome. Little is known about ABS, but doctors have determined that it manifests itself when carbohydrates are fermented by fungal or bacterial activity in the alimentary canal to produce alcohol. The causes of ABS are not fully understood, but the onset of the condition has been linked to antibiotic use. It is believed that antibiotics disrupt gut bacteria and create conditions in the digestive tract that allow ABS to thrive.

The case study of a 46-year-old man who developed ABS was recently published in the British Medical Journal. The man began to show symptoms after taking antibiotics for three weeks to treat a hand injury. The disease was eventually brought under control by antifungal medications administered intravenously combined with probiotics. In 2015, a drunk driving case against a New York woman was dismissed when her attorney introduced evidence revealing that she suffered from ABS.

While ABS is quite rare, other medical conditions that can influence breath test results are extremely common. This is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may ask motorists who have been charged with a DUI about their medical histories. When their clients follow a ketogenic diet or suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, diabetes or acid reflux, attorneys may challenge breath test results and seek to have drunk driving charges dismissed.