Police officers in Kansas and around the country will usually assume that a driver has been drinking when a breath test indicates that their blood alcohol concentration is .08% or higher, but it is possible for an individual who has not consumed a drop of alcohol to fail such a test. In 2015, a judge in New York dismissed a drunk driving charge against a woman who had failed a breath test after a doctor revealed that she suffered from an obscure medical condition known as auto-brewery syndrome.
ABS is a rare and terrifying disease that causes the people who suffer from it to become involuntarily intoxicated. The digestive tracts of ABS sufferers contain unhealthy amounts of bacteria or fungi that convert carbohydrates into ethanol. This can lead to BAC levels that are two or three times the legal driving limit even when no alcohol has been consumed. The exact cause of ABS has yet to be identified, but those who are afflicted with it often start to show symptoms shortly after taking antibiotic medication.
In January 2019, the British Medical Journal printed the case study of a 46-year-old man who developed ABS after taking antibiotics to prevent an infection. Doctors were initially baffled by the man’s memory loss and depression, but a specialist in Ohio determined that ABS was responsible after identifying two types of rare yeast in a stool sample.
ABS is not the only medical condition that can influence the results of breath tests. This is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may ask individuals who are accused of driving while under the influence about their medical histories. When their clients follow diets extremely low in carbohydrates or suffer from diabetes, acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease, attorneys might dispute toxicology test results and seek to have drunk driving charges dismissed.