Man charged with drink driving argues undiagnosed medical condition caused reading | ACT | Office Space Canberra \
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Man charged with drink driving argues undiagnosed medical condition caused reading

A Canberra man charged with drink driving has an undiagnosed metabolic disorder that caused a breath test reading of more than double the legal limit, a court heard on Tuesday.

Timothy John Travis, 38, said he had not consumed any alcohol since two nights before police pulled him over for a random breath test and he blew the reading of 0.117.

The man told police he had an undiagnosed medical condition which meant he could not metabolise alcohol, the court heard.

But prosecutors called a medical expert who said it was “not possible” for a living human to record a 0.117 breath test reading under the circumstances the man reported.

She said there was no credible evidence to support the existence of auto-brewery syndrome, a term given to the production of alcohol within the body.

Police pulled the Ngunnawal man over about 5pm January 29, 2016, after he had finished work as a swim school teacher and picked up his children, the court heard.

He recorded a reading of 0.153 on a first breath test and then he requested a second, which recorded 0.147.

At the police station, Mr Travis was tested again on another machine and recorded 0.117.

The legal limit is 0.05 grams of alcohol per 210 litres of blood, and Mr Travis was charged with driving with a level 3 prescribed concentration of alcohol on a road.

On Tuesday, Mr Travis told the court the last time he drank alcohol before the breath test was 36 hours earlier, when he shared one long neck beer with his wife and a friend.

He said he was shocked to hear the reading, and had “no inkling” he would be over the limit when tested.

He called his wife and parents to the scene, and that evening went to his general practitioner, and then to the hospital for tests.

One officer smelled alcohol on Mr Travis’ breath, the court heard, but three officers said the man did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol. They said his speech and movement appeared normal.

Prosecutors called forensic medical expert Vanita Parekh to give evidence, and she told the court it was “not possible” for a person to have a breath test reading of 0.117 after drinking that much beer two nights earlier.

The doctor also said she could not think of any other way besides consuming alcohol that someone might record that reading.

Cross-examined by defence solicitor Andrew Fraser, Dr Parekh agreed her reports to the court reflected current scientific knowledge and that knowledge sometimes changed.

She said it was extremely unlikely that scientists in the future would find a new metabolic disorder, but conceded “anything was possible”.

Prosecutor Katie McCann argued that evidence the man had not drunk any alcohol and had a medical condition that caused the breath test reading was implausible, and the magistrate should reject it.

But Mr Fraser said Mr Travis could not have known he would record a high breath test reading because the last drink he had was 36 hours before being tested. He also pointed to the police observations of the man.

Mr Fraser said he did not argue with Dr Parekh’s reports, but it was his submission that with further study it was possible an as yet unknown disorder, maybe similar to auto-brewery syndrome, could be diagnosed.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston set down the case to return on December 20 for a decision.

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