Imagine eating a nice pasta dinner at a restaurant. You eat your fill and wash it down with a few cold glasses of water—there’s no alcohol involved. Then, on your way home, you get pulled over for a routine traffic stop and are faced with a breath test. You can’t refuse, but you have nothing to worry about—no alcohol, remember? Imagine your surprise when the test returns a BAC reading of more than 0.08 percent and you’re arrested for an OVI. How could this have happened?
It could be a situation involving auto brewery syndrome (ABS). What is ABS? It’s a rare condition that may make it look like you’re operating under the influence, even if you haven’t had a single thing to drink!
A problem of fermentation
Most people have never heard of auto brewery syndrome in Cincinnati, OH. In fact, it sounds like an urban legend! It goes like this. There’s an imbalance of bacteria in your gut, which feeds on carbohydrates and sugars. The imbalance is so great that as the bacteria breaks these things down, the carbs and sugars begin to ferment in your stomach!
If you know anything about the process of making beer, you’ll know that this is how alcohol is made. However, the fermentation of carbs and sugars usually takes place in a fermentation tank—not in someone’s stomach! Needless to say, if you blow into a breath test with alcohol brewing in your stomach, the results aren’t going to be pretty! People with ABS have registered BAC readings of as high as 0.3 percent, which is extremely close to lethal—all without ever taking a drink.
Can you be charged with operating a vehicle while impaired?
It seems unfair to charge someone with an OVI if they fail a breathalyzer test due to ABS. Unfortunately, until a diagnosis is made, there’s no way of knowing. It’s more than likely you’ll be charged as soon as your BAC is registered or if you’re taken to the hospital for a blood draw to confirm a BAC reading.
While most people are charged outright, these charges can be dropped if ABS is proven—for example, if a physician evaluation reveals abnormal gut bacteria levels, or if a study is done to show the continued prevalence of alcohol even when no drinks have been consumed. The key is to provide irrefutable proof to have the charge dismissed.
ABS is considered an “under-diagnosed” condition and may affect more people than we realize. Regardless, its presence in several high-profile cases has created precedent for dismissal of OVI charges.
ABS has a solution
If you’re diagnosed with ABS, the prospect of getting behind the wheel again can be daunting. What if you’re pulled over and have to take another breath test? It’s enough to make anyone consider public transportation! But thankfully, ABS can be cured and relapses prevented. The right diet, in conjunction with probiotics, can set your gut right again.
In the mean time, if you’ve been charged with an OVI and have cause to believe it may be auto brewery syndrome in Cincinnati, OH, consult with a physician and an attorney to help make your condition apparent.
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