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Drunk driving charges dropped against woman with 'brewery' stomach condition

By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |   Dec. 29, 2015 at 1:01 PM

HAMBURG, N.Y., Dec. 29 (UPI) -- A New York state judge dismissed drunken driving charges against a woman whose lawyer said her medical condition turns her stomach into a "brewery."

Judge Walter Rooth, a Hamburg town justice, dismissed the charges of driving while intoxicated and aggravated driving while intoxicated after Joseph Marusak, the 35-year-old defendant's attorney, said his client suffers from "gut fermentation syndrome."

Marusak said the woman's digestive system creates too much yeast, causing her stomach to act as a "brewery" and turn food into alcohol.

The woman was pulled over Oct. 11, 2014, and police said she admitted to drinking three cocktails earlier in the day. A Breathalyzer test measured her blood alcohol content at .33 -- well over the .08 legal limit.

Marusak said doctors measured his client's BAC over the course of a 12-hour period when she had not been drinking alcohol.

"Her blood alcohol level was repeatedly measured at very high levels -- .279, then .379 and then .40 – extremely high levels," Marusak was quoted as saying by The Buffalo News. "We then took blood samples and refrigerated them, and took them to the Erie County Medical Center lab to be examined. Again, those levels came out extremely high."

The lawyer said his client hasn't had an incident related to the disease since changing her diet earlier this year.

Hamburg Police Chief Gregory Wickett stood by the decision to charge the woman.

"She was highly intoxicated, as shown by the Breathalyzer. Our officers did the right thing in getting her off the road," Wickett said. "Whether she has a medical issue that caused it is not for me to decide."

Prosecutors said they plan to appeal to have the charges reinstated.

A pair of Texas doctors authored a study in 2013 detailing the case of a man who was found to have gut fermentation syndrome after being drunk for five consecutive years.

The authors said the man's doctors and family members had thought he was secretly sneaking alcoholic beverages until the extra yeast in his stomach was discovered.

The man was treated with anti-fungal medications.

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