TOWN OF HAMBURG, N.Y. -- A woman who was charged with aggravated D.W.I. in 2014 is now off the hook, after she was diagnosed with a rare medical condition that causes her own stomach to produce alcohol.
The woman is not being identified, because the court file is sealed.
She was stopped along Route 5 in October 2014 after someone complained about her erratic driving. It turns out, she had a flat tire. However, the officer noticed her eyes were bloodshot, and he smelled alcohol.
The woman consented to a breathalyzer, which showed her blood alcohol content at 0.33. That's more than 4 times over the legal limit.
"She knew it was wrong," said her attorney, Joe Marusak. "She had 3 or 4 drinks, but that was hours earlier in the afternoon."
The woman was taken to ECMC, where she requested a blood sample be taken and tested, Marusak said. It showed her B.A.C. still at 0.30.
"(The doctors) want to release her immediately, because she has no symptoms," Marusak said. "She appears sober."
Marusak started digging and came across something called "Auto Brewery Syndrome", a rare disorder that can cause large amounts of yeast to build up in a person's intestine that then leads to fermentation. Foods can be broken down into sugars and turned into alcohol.
The woman underwent a controlled experiment in Buffalo, in which health professionals monitored her to make sure she did not drink alcohol and then took samples of her blood. They again showed high levels of alcohol.
Marusak then got her appointment in Columbus, Ohio to see a national leading expert in "Auto Brewery Syndrome." That doctor diagnosed the woman with the disorder.
A judge agreed with Marusak's argument that the woman was not guilty of D.W.I., and in December, he officially dismissed the charge against her.
This week, Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty decided not to appeal that case. Flaherty released the following statement to 2 On Your Side:
“Upon reviewing the facts and the law, we have no legitimate grounds that we can raise in good faith that would compel the appellate court to reverse the trial judge's decision. Because the file is sealed, we are legally forbidden from discussing it further.”