Belgian Man with Auto-Brewery Syndrome Cleared of Drink-Driving Charge

Belgian Man with Auto-Brewery Syndrome Cleared of Drink-Driving Charge

A Belgian man faced a unique situation in court when a drink-driving charge against him was dismissed due to his rare metabolic condition known as auto-brewery syndrome (ABS). This condition causes his body to produce alcohol, leading to increased ethanol levels in his blood and symptoms of intoxication.

The 40-year-old man, whose identity was not disclosed, was able to prove his ABS by undergoing tests conducted by three doctors. His lawyer, Anse Ghesquiere, emphasized that only about 20 people worldwide have been officially diagnosed with this condition, indicating that ABS cases are likely under-estimated. The court recognized the exceptional circumstances surrounding the man’s case and acquitted him of the charge.

The man’s legal troubles began when police stopped his vehicle in April 2022 and measured his breath alcohol levels at 0.91 and 0.71 milligrammes per litre, respectively. These readings exceeded the legal limit in Belgium of 0.22 milligrammes per litre of air exhaled. Despite previously receiving a fine and a driving license suspension in 2019 for a similar incident, the man was unaware of his syndrome until his recent encounter with the law.

Following his court appearance, the Belgian state television channel VRT reported that the prosecutor advised the man to abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages. In the meantime, the man has adopted a low-carbohydrate diet to prevent his stomach from producing additional alcohol. Ghesquiere revealed that she and her client were anticipating formal notification of the acquittal, with the prosecution having the option to appeal within a month.

The case of the Belgian man with auto-brewery syndrome sheds light on the challenges faced by individuals with rare medical conditions when interacting with the legal system. The recognition of ABS as a valid medical condition in the courtroom is a step towards raising awareness and understanding of such disorders. It also highlights the need for medical professionals and law enforcement officials to be informed about unusual conditions that may affect individuals’ behavior and physiology.


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