12.28.2016

A California man is in the midst of a lengthy legal battle following a driving under the influence charge for operating a car while under the influence of caffeine

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

 Heeelllllooooo?  As a (obviously) big time coffee drinker, THIS little news article caught my eye... so a guy is getting a DUI for driving under the influence of.. COFFEE?

OMG.

 So here is the deal....

A California man is in the midst of a lengthy legal battle following a driving under the influence charge that was issued almost 18 months ago for operating a car while under the influence of caffeine, reports said. I'm sorry, did we miss something? When did it become illegal to drive after consuming some espresso?

Joseph Schwab, 36, was pulled over on August 5, 2015, by a California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agent in an unmarked car who claimed the 36-year-old had cut her off and was driving erratically, The Guardian reported. The agent administered a breathalyzer test which displayed a 0.00% blood alcohol level, according to Schwab's lawyer. After that test, Schwab was put into county jail and had his blood taken for an addition toxicology test. The following report concluded that he had no illegal drugs in his system.

It wasn't until samples were sent to an outside testing facility in Pennsylvania that caffeine showed up as the only drug in Schwab's system when he was arrested, The Guardian reported. Now, just about 18 months later, Schwab and his attorney are gearing up for trial.

Schwab's lawyer, defense attorney Stacey Barrett, has filed a motion for the case to be dropped because no charges were actually filed until almost 10 months following the arrest. If that doesn't go through, the case will be brought in front of a jury in January.

The chief deputy district attorney in the county where Schwab was held, Sharon Henry said her office was “conducting further investigation in this matter," The Guardian reported. “The charge of driving under the influence is not based upon the presence of caffeine in his system."

According to California law, a drug is any substance that isn't alcohol that might “impair, to an appreciable degree” a driver's capability behind the wheel. How the state might attempt to argue caffeine did that to Schwab, we are not sure.

“No one believed me that I only had caffeine in my system until I showed them the lab results,” said Schwab, according to The Guardian. “I want the charges to be dismissed and my name to be cleared.”

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THIS is the part that jumped out at me:   California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agent in an unmarked car who claimed the 36-year-old had cut her off and was driving erratically

Hmmm.  He 'cut her off' ...  which makes me start to think "Was this just a case of a pissed off woman because he cut her off in traffic and she just happened to have the 'power' behind her career to get back at him for it?  We ALL KNOW THIS HAPPENS so it's completely understandable to wonder....

So I looked up the whole story and I am just shaking my head at this.  So wrong.. and on so many levels.

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Caffeine may be the “nootropic” brain drug of choice in Silicon Valley, but an hour’s drive north in Solano County, California, the stimulant could get you charged with driving under the influence.

That is according to defense attorney Stacey Barrett, speaking on behalf of her client, Joseph Schwab.

After being pulled over on 5 August 2015, Schwab was charged by the Solano County district attorney with misdemeanor driving under the influence of a drug.

Almost 18 months later, Schwab is preparing to go to trial. The only evidence the DA has provided of his intoxication is a blood test showing the presence of caffeine.

Shcwab 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.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Barrett. “I’ve never even heard of it.”

Barrett has filed a motion for the case to be dismissed because the charges were not brought until June 2016 – nearly 10 months after incident. If that motion is denied, Schwab will take his case to a jury on 11 January.

Sharon Henry, chief deputy district attorney for Solano County, said in a statement that her office was “conducting further investigation in this matter”.

“The charge of driving under the influence is not based upon the presence of caffeine in his system,” she added.
Barrett counters that if the prosecution has evidence of a different drug in her client’s system, it should have to provided that to her, based on the rules governing criminal procedings.

“I have not been provided with any evidence to support a theory of prosecution for a substance other than caffeine at this time,” she said. “Nor I have received any statements, reports, etc documenting any ongoing investigation since the [toxicology report] dated 18 November 2015.”

Henry declined to comment further, citing the right to a fair trial.

“It’s really stupid,” said Jeffrey Zehnder, a forensic toxicologist who frequently testifies in court cases. Over 41 years, Zehnder said, he had never seen a prosecution for driving under the influence of caffeine. 

“If that’s the case, then they better come and arrest me,” he joked.

Zehnder was informed about the case by Barrett, but has not been contracted to testify on either side.

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, 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.

As for Schwab, he just wants this ordeal to be over. In a statement provided to the Guardian by his attorney, he said his reputation had been damaged.

“No one believed me that I only had caffeine in my system until I showed them the lab results,” he said. “I want the charges to be dismissed and my name to be cleared.”












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