“Driving Under the Influence of Coffee” Case Dismissed
In August 2015, 36-year-old Joseph Schwab was commuting home from work when he was stopped by an agent of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for the state of California. The agent claimed that Schwab cut him off while driving and that Schwab was driving unpredictably, prompting him to proceed with a traffic stop. During the traffic stop, Schwab was given a breathalyzer test, the result of which was a 0.0% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), but the agent moved to arrest Schwab based on his behavior.
When Schwab was booked into jail, a blood sample was taken to test for the presence of drugs. The test revealed that Schwab’s blood was negative for THC, cocaine, benzodiazepines, opiates, muscle relaxers, oxycodone, methamphetamine, zolpidem, and other drugs that are tested for. The only stimulant that was present in his blood sample was caffeine. While caffeine is not a controlled substance, vehicle code in California defines a “drug” as any substance besides alcohol that affects an individual’s ability to drive.
Despite there being no controlled substances or alcohol in Schwab’s system while he was driving, the Solano County District Attorney still moved to file DUI charges against him because of the caffeine present in his system. Jeffrey Zehnder, a forensic toxicologist with over 40 years of experience, has never seen a prosecution occur for driving under the influence of caffeine, and he believed that proving the case based on caffeine alone would be difficult.
About 18 months later, Schwab’s case was preparing to go to trial when the District Attorney’s Office for Solano County announced that it was dropping the charges against him. In a news release, District Attorney Krishna Abrams stated that without a “confirmatory” test to prove what specific drug was in Schwab’s system that impaired his ability to drive, the D.A.’s Office did not believe it could prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. With this announcement, the charges were dismissed.
While Schwab did not have to take his case to trial, these are not always the circumstances for every person charged with Driving Under the Influence. If you or someone you know has been charged with drinking and driving, it is important to seek the legal advice of a knowledgeable DUI attorney. These legal professionals can review their client’s case, work to provide the best possible outcome, and make sure their client’s rights are respected during the court proceedings.
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