Caffeine Cause for DUI

Caffeine Cause for DUI

Imagine all the substances that can impair one’s ability to drive: alcohol is most likely number one, followed by marijuana, various prescription drugs, other illegal drugs, and perhaps many over the counter medications come to mind. Well, earlier this year, a Californian man was charged with DUI and the arresting officer cited caffeine. Caffeine!

According to an article from The Guardian, Joseph Schwab was driving home from work when an agent from the California department of alcoholic beverage control initiated a traffic stop. The agent claims that Schwab had cut her off and was driving erratically. If true, the police officer certainly had cause to pull Schwab over. Despite consenting to an onsite breathalyzer test that resulted in a blood-alcohol level of 0.00%, Schwab was brought to the county jail to test for other ability impairing substances.

Caffeine on Lab Test

At the jail, Schwab’s blood was drawn and tested for various illicit drugs and legal prescriptions. Although the test came back negative and Schwab was released, the agency sent the blood to a Pennsylvania lab for further examination. The only drug found in Schwab’s blood was traces of caffeine. After the police agency received the test results ten months later, Schwab was officially charged with DUI.

The county’s district attorney’s office claims that caffeine is not the basis of the charge but, as legally mandated, the prosecution has yet to provide evidence to support that claim to the defense. Since additional evidence has not been provided and the toxicology tests have come back negative for everything (besides caffeine), Stacey Barrett, Schwab’s attorney, has filed a motion to dismiss but is prepared to take the case to jury.

Caffeine can Impair driving ability

The same Guardian article points to the vagueness of California’s definition of drug as to why this case has reached this point; “California vehicle code defines a “drug” as any substance besides alcohol that could affect a person in a manner that would “impair, to an appreciable degree” his ability to drive normally.” With the ambiguity of the code, caffeine’s effects may cause it to fall under drug classification. Fortunately for Schwab, the toxicology expert interviewed believes that the prosecution has nothing to stand on, calling the case “stupid”.

It would be surprising to see Schwab be found guilty of driving under the influence. From how the article was written, it seems more likely that Schwab was driving slightly irresponsibly than ability impaired. Although it seems unlikely that Joseph Schwab will be found guilty, if he were, it could set a dangerous precedent for California drivers. Most people commuting to work are going to have caffeine in their system. If one person is prosecuted and convicted for driving under the influence of caffeine, it could open the door to charge anyone that tests positive for caffeine with DUI.

This case underscores the ambiguity that exists in many of the DUI statutes. If you or someone you know has been charged with driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs you need an experienced lawyer who knows the law. Call Team Green Lawyers and let us show you what a difference our experience makes.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/24/california-dui-caffeine-lawsuit-solano-county

https://www.nycourts.gov/judges/cji/3-VTL/VTL_1192/1192(4).pdf