Driver Charged with DUI for Having Caffeine in His System

Driver Charged with DUI for Having Caffeine in His System

In August 2015, Joseph Schwab, 36, was pulled over in Solano County, California, after an agent from the state department of alcoholic beverage control said that Schwab had cut her off and was driving erratically. He was booked into jail, even though no alcohol was found in his system. So why is he facing a trial for a DUI charge? Because he was on caffeine. [1]

Schwab’s alcohol level was 0.00% and subsequent tests found no benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, THC, carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem in his system, either. [2]

At least 1 toxicologist claims he has never heard of someone being charged with DUI by caffeine in 41 years on the job. And California attorney Stacey Barrett calls the charge “absurd.” [1]

Solano County’s chief deputy DA says the DUI charge isn’t based on caffeine, but Barrett says he has offered no other explanation for it. The county took 10 months to bring charges against Schwab, which the man claims has made it harder for him to defend himself. Schwab, who works as a glass installer, has had difficulty finding the crew he was working with on the day he was pulled over to testify on his behalf. [1]

Barrett filed a motion to dismiss the charge in Superior Court last week. She said that if the prosecution has evidence of another substance in Schwab’s system, it should have made that known to her, based on the rules governing criminal proceedings. [2]

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

Forensic toxicologist Jeffrey Zehnder said:

“It’s really stupid. If that’s the case, then they better come and arrest me.”

Yes, and they better come for me, too. Hell, they better come for all of us.

Under California’s vehicle code, a “drug” is defined 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.

Zehnder said it would be very difficult to make a case with caffeine, because the prosecutor would need to show that caffeine, specifically, caused Schwab to drive erratically, and not any other circumstances. Zehnder said:

“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.”

Source: Business Insider

As for Schwab, he claims the ordeal has damaged his reputation:

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

Interestingly, the lab results didn’t show how much caffeine Schwab had in his system. In fact, Schwab isn’t even sure he consumed any caffeine that day. [1]


[1] Newser

[2] The Guardian

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