The law can be a funny thing


This is a fun little case, rather appropriate for today given last night's excesses. Yet there's something profoundly wrong about the final dispensation:

Drink driving charges against an American woman have been dismissed based on an unusual defence: her body is a brewery. The woman was arrested while driving with a blood-alcohol level more than four times the legal limit in New York state. She then discovered she had a rare condition called "auto-brewery syndrome", in which her digestive system converts ordinary food into alcohol, according to her lawyer, Joseph Marusak.

We are aware that this can indeed happen.

The rare condition, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, was first documented in the 1970s in Japan, and medical and legal experts in the US say it is being used more frequently in drink driving cases.

We're even aware that that first known case concerned an American man in Japan and boy, didn't he have a hard time proving it.

During the long wait for a diagnosis appointment, Mr Marusak arranged to have nurses monitor his client for a day to document she drank no alcohol, and to take several blood samples for testing. "At the end of the day, she had a blood-alcohol content of .36 without drinking any alcoholic beverages," he said. He added the woman also bought a Breathalyser and blew into it every night for 18 days, registering around .20 every time.

Clearly, this is not the woman's fault so yes, we entirely agree with the idea that all charges should be dismissed. We are rather in favour of the idea of mens rea after all. However, this to us seems entirely wrong:

The woman is now free to drive without restrictions

Because we don't in fact have laws against drinking before you drive. This is not some puritan (however often people seem keen to take it in that direction) restriction of the joys of booze. This is law against driving while drunk, on the very sensible Millian grounds that in doing so you are a danger to others. And it doesn't matter how one becomes drunk, one is still that danger.

So the correct answer here is that, without fault of course there should be no punishment. But if ingesting carbohydrates is going to get someone pissed (which is the specific problem here) then someone to whom this happens should not drive: because they're pissed.

Someone could have gone blind from indulging too much in teenage manipulation, they could have gone blind as a result of unsuccessfully defusing a terrorist bomb and saving many lives in doing so. We still don't let them drive: because they're blind. They why is not the point, the danger is.