California Driver Arrested for Having Caffeine in His System

Man driving a car with left hand on wheel

A 36-year-old man from California is now trying to clear his name after authorities arrested him 18 months ago for driving under the influence. Ironically, the only drug in the man’s system was caffeine, but police have so far refused to drop charges.

The man recently threatened to file a lawsuit against the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. One of the department’s agents pulled over Joseph Schwab late last summer for driving erratically. The incident resulted in a DUI charge for driving a vehicle under the influence of caffeine.

In California, authorities can issue a DUI charge if the driver has a considerable amount of a substance that isn’t alcohol on one condition. It must “impair, to an appreciable degree” the person’s ability to operate a car. It is unclear how state authorities would argue that in court.

Schwab Arrested despite Negative Breathalyzer Test

The female agent that pulled over the motorist reportedly administered a breathalyzer test which found no traces of alcohol. The agent said she pulled over the man for cutting her off and erratic driving. Nevertheless, the CDABC agent drove an unmarked car at the time of the incident.

Although the test turned negative, Schwab landed in the county jail. A blood sample was immediately sent to a laboratory for a toxicology test. The test revealed he had no controlled substances in his system. Despite that, authorities failed to drop charges.

In return, Schwab sent another sample to an independent laboratory in Pennsylvania. That test revealed that the only substance present in his system was caffeine. Eighteen months later, the driver and his attorney are ready to bring the case to court.

His lawyer Stacey Barrett said he asked authorities to dismiss the DUI charges recently. He argued that authorities filed the charges about 10 months after the arrest. If this effort yields no results, his client would let a jury figure things out in January.

A spokesperson for the chief deputy district attorney said the office was running a separate probe into the matter. She added that the DUI charge has nothing to do with the presence of caffeine in the man’s blood.

Schwab told reporters that no officer believed him that he was clean and the only drug in his system might be caffeine until he showed them the laboratory results. He now wants his name cleared and charges dropped.

California DUI Laws

In California, most DUI offenses represent misdemeanors. However, because they are considered a crime, penalties are harsh. For instance, a first-time offender can see his or her license suspended for six months, face a $1,500 fine and/or spend time in jail. This applies to drivers that have illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamine in their systems too.

These substances can greatly impair drivers, putting both their and other people’s lives in danger. In marijuana’s case, the drug slows down reaction time and coordination and doesn’t allow the driver correctly assess time and distances. Drivers on cocaine, on the other hand, can become very aggressive. While drivers on benzodiazepines can experience drowsiness and dizziness.
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