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Attention coffee drinkers, driving while on caffeine could get you a DUI

A man in Calfornia is preparing to head to court to fight a charge of driving under the influence. But it’s not for a substance you might normally associate with this charge.

He wasn’t drinking, wasn’t on weed or cocaine or ecstasy. Nope, police booked a man into jail in Solano County, California, for driving under the influence. And what was the only drug in this man’s system? Caffeine.

Yep, the drug that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going when you’ve hit a wall can apparently result in a fight over a DUI. Well, at least in California. Here’s how this situation unfolded (via The Guardian).

(Joseph) Schwab was driving home from work when he was pulled over by an agent from the California department of alcoholic beverage control, who was driving an unmarked vehicle. The agent said Schwab had cut her off and was driving erratically.

The 36-year-old union glazier was given a breathalyzer test which showed a 0.00% blood alcohol level, his attorney said. He was booked into county jail and had his blood drawn, but the resulting toxicology report came back negative for benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, THC, carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem.

The sample was screened a second time by a laboratory in Pennsylvania, according to documents provided to the Guardian, where the sole positive result was for caffeine – a substance likely coursing through the veins of many drivers on the road at any given time.

This is so ridiculous, right? I mean, just think of how many DUI’s cops could hand out if this was actually a thing. I’d be screwed just about every time I get behind the wheel.

But back to this case. As of now, the state’s argument is that the case is being brought up too late (this incident took place in August 2015) and won’t say that they are charging him with a DUI over caffeine.

And with that argument, they’ve lost all credibility. This man hasn’t tested positive for any other substance, so how can you charge him with DUI if you’re not considering the caffeine in the man’s system?

If the state changes course and attempts to go after the fact there was caffeine in the man’s system, one toxicologist believes it would be quite difficult to convince a jury to convict the man.

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.

Making that case with caffeine would be difficult, (Jeffrey) Zehnder said, because the prosecutor would have to show that impaired driving was specifically caused by the caffeine and not any other circumstances.

“There are no studies that demonstrate that driving is impaired by caffeine, and they don’t do the studies, because no one cares about caffeine,” he said.

For myself and many others’ sakes, let’s hope this man is cleared of any charge. I can’t imagine trying to drive to work in the morning without having a cup of coffee in the cupholder next to me.

[The Guardian/Photo: KDVS]

Ryan Williamson

About Ryan Williamson

Ryan is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri and has recently returned to his Minnesota roots. He previously has worked for the Columbia Missourian, KFAN radio in Minneapolis and BringMeTheNews.com. Feel free to email me at rwilliamson29 AT Gmail dot com.

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