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Maine Court Rejects DUI Defendant’s Gut Fermentation Defense Due to Issues with Experts

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently analyzed a rare defense in a DUI case: the defendant should not be found guilty due to gut fermentation syndrome. The court ultimately rejected the defense based on the defendant’s failure to produce expert testimony, but the court raised concerns regarding the effect such a defense may have on DUI cases in general. If you are currently facing an Illinois DUI charge, it is in your best interest to meet with a skilled DUI defense attorney regarding the potential defenses in your case.

Gut Fermentation Syndrome

Reportedly, the defendant in the Maine case was stopped due to suspicion of DUI. Chemical testing revealed that the defendant’s blood alcohol level was almost four times the legal limit. As such, the defendant was charged with DUI. The defendant’s attorney argued that the defendant should not be found guilty because he suffers from gut fermentation syndrome. Gut fermentation syndrome is a rare disorder in which a person’s body involuntarily ferments alcohol in the digestive syndrome. Gut fermentation syndrome ultimately results in intoxication, even if the person suffering from the syndrome has not consumed alcohol.

It is alleged that the court refused to allow the defendant to submit expert testimony regarding gut fermentation syndrome, due to the fact that it found one expert to be unqualified to opine on the issue, and ruled the other expert was submitted too late. Thus, the defendant pleaded no contest to the charges and filed an appeal. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling as to the witnesses, but specifically stated that the gut fermentation defense was not inadmissible. One of the justices expressed concerns regarding the defense, however, stating that it could potentially open the door to the defense of ignorance of intoxication. The justice noted that it is illegal to drive while intoxicated, regardless of whether the intoxication is involuntary.

Illinois DUI Statute

The issue of whether gut fermentation is a viable defense has not been addressed by the Illinois courts. The Illinois DUI statute, § 625 ILCS 5/11-501,does not include any provisions regarding the DUI suspect’s knowledge of his or her intoxication. Rather, the statute merely states that a person can be convicted of a DUI for driving or being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, or while the person’s alcohol concentration as indicated by a blood or breath test is greater than 0.08 percent.

It is anticipated, however, that any court presented with gut fermentation as a defense will analyze the facts of the case with extreme scrutiny and require ample evidence that the defendant is suffering from gut fermentation prior to considering the defense. Moreover, as indicated in the Maine case, even if a person has gut fermentation it is possible that he or she could be found guilty of DUI regardless, as the voluntary nature of a person’s intoxication is not a component of DUI under Illinois law.

Consult a Seasoned Illinois DUI Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you are charged with an Illinois DUI, you should consult a seasoned DUI attorney regarding your case and your available defenses. Attorney Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC will assertively advocate on your behalf to assist you in retaining your rights. You can reach Mr. Harvatin at 217.525.0520 to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

More Blog Posts:

New York DWI Dismissed Because Defendant’s “Body is a Brewery”, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, January 11, 2016.