February 3, 2017 By Matthew Wallin

Driving Under the Influence of Coffee?

Some folks just cannot start their day without a good dose of caffeine. Whether the morning routine includes a cup of coffee made in their kitchen, or a shot of an energy drink on the way to work, self-described caffeine junkies just do not feel like themselves until they have that first cup. According to Villanova University, nearly 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine in one manner or another every day, making it by far the most widely used drug in this country.1

In that sense, Joseph Schwab is like any other American. What makes the Northern California man different, however, is that he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) while apparently having no drug in his system other than caffeine.

An Unusual DUI Case

California law provides several different ways to charge a person with a DUI. Vehicle Code section 23152(a) states: “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.” Section 23152(b) makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more. Section 23152(c) declares it a crime to drive while addicted to the use of any drug, and it is a violation of section 23152(f) to drive while under the influence of any drug.

Schwab was pulled over in August 2015 by a California Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control officer who observed Schwab’s “erratic and reckless driving.” Following a field sobriety test and breathalyzer (on which he blew a 0.00%), the officer arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence of an unknown drug. Schwab submitted to a blood test, which showed the only drug in his system to be caffeine.

Nonetheless, the Solano County District Attorney’s still charged him with violating section 23152(f).2 However, after further investigation, the D.A. dropped the case in December 2016, stating that the case presented “challenges,” most notably the lack of a confirmatory test of the specific combination of stimulants and/or depressants alleged to be in Schwab’s system.3

Could Using Any Drug Actually Lead to a DUI Conviction?

While Solano County’s prosecutors declined to continue the case against Schwab, it is theoretically possible that a legal drug such as caffeine can lead to a DUI charge and possibly a conviction. Section 23152(f) is, in a sense, a “catch-all” law that folds any drug other than alcohol into a possible DUI charge. However, the prosecution would have to prove that the drug altered your motor skills, your senses, your concentration, or your reflexes significantly enough to impair your ability to drive.

Contact the DUI Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich For Help

In California, DUI is a crime that is not limited solely to drinking and driving. No matter what drug is alleged to have been used, a charge for driving under the influence can lead to serious consequences that can affect your life for years. That is why you should consider hiring an experienced attorney to handle your defense. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have been successfully defending clients like you in DUI cases for over 35 years. We will use all of our expertise and skill to fight for your rights, and we will work hard to ensure that you obtain the best possible outcome to your case. Let our knowledgeable attorneys help you, too.

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich DUI defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.

Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will get through this together.

1. Villanova University, “About Caffeine,” Villanova University Student Life, available at https://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/studentlife/health/promotion/goto/resources/drugs/caffeine.html. href=”#ref1″>↩

2. Note: At the time of Schwab’s charge, 23152(f) had been 23152(e). The section was amended in 2016. href=”#ref2″>↩

3. Press Release, Solano County: “PEOPLE V. JOSEPH SCHWAB WAS NEVER ABOUT CAFFEINE,” December 28, 2016, available at: http://www.co.solano.ca.us/news/displaynews.asp?NewsID=1018&TargetID=18. href=”#ref3″>↩

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