California Man Cited for a DUI because of Caffeine Consumption!
Driving under the influence charges, DUIs, are given out to individuals who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but how was a California man cited for DUI because of caffeine? Determining the levels of alcohol in a persons body, while can be difficult to determine the exact amount in every situation, there is little to no doubt that alcohol is in the persons system. When it comes to determining drugs, it takes a few extra steps to make the determination. Caffeine on the other hand is not frequently thought of as a recreational drug despite the fact that caffeine actually changes the drinker’s brain chemistry. A man in California was pulled over for erratic behavior while driving and cited for a DUI even though all he had to drink that day were caffeinated beverages.
What Caffeine Actually Does to your Brain?
Nine of the ten individuals in America engage in drinking some form of caffeinated beverages, whether those beverages be coffee, tea, sodas, or energy drinks.i Caffeine is actually considered a psychoactive drug, and is the most widely used drug at that. A psychoactive drug, also known as a psychotropic substance, is a chemical substance that acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness, and behavior.ii Other psychoactive drugs include alcohol, cannabis, narcotic, peyote or mushrooms.iii While many people do not consider caffeine a drug, based upon what caffeine does to your brain’s chemistry, it absolutely falls into that category. Caffeine is the only drug of this category that has no regulations.
How Does Caffeine Affect the Rest of Your Body?
While caffeine can result in increased alertness and a positive change in mood, there are a lot of other affects caffeine can have on the body.iv The link between caffeine and headaches is a complicated relationship. Too much caffeine can cause a headache, but not enough caffeine can also cause a headache.v For individuals who regularly drink a cup of coffee every morning, they know all too well how painful it can be to skip a mornings cup of coffee, or even drink it a few hours later. Caffeine can also cause a lot of digestive problems and make a person jittery.vi
The Mayo Clinic has found that on average, it is safe for adults to drink about four cups of coffee a day.vii Now this doesn’t mean four mugs full of coffee, but the actual cup measurement.viii Caffeine intake can be safe to engage in, but it can get out of control fairly quickly for some individuals. Over time, regular caffeine drinkers will need to increase their intake to avoid those nasty withdrawal symptoms. It can be a cruel balancing act to keep up with the caffeine intake and avoiding those awful headaches. Despite the many downsides to caffeine, most adults engage in some form of regular caffeine intake in the United States. Can you get a DUI because of caffeine consumption in the US?
DUI because of Caffeine Consumption
According to CNN, Joseph Schwab was pulled over in August 2015 in Fairfield California.ix A statement was released from the Solano County District Attorney’s office claiming that the officer on the scene was suspicious of Joseph Schwab because of his “erratic and reckless driving”.x The officer was also concerned about Joseph Schwab’s “demeanor” and “performance on a number of field sobriety tests”.xi Ultimately, the office charged Joseph Schwab with a DUI.xii Even after a blood test came back stating that there was no alcohol in Joseph Schwab’s system, the DUI (because of caffeine?) charge was not dropped.
Joseph Schwab was given a breathalyzer test at the scene, which produced a 0.00% blood alcohol level.xiii Despite the non existent level of alcohol in his system, the police officer was still convinced that the driver was under the influence of something and booked Joseph Schwab into the county jail.xiv Joseph Schwab’s blood was drawn in jail and tested for benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, THC, carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem. The only thing in Joseph Schwab’s system was caffeine.xv The arresting officer was convinced that Joseph Schwab was under the influence of something, but nothing could have been proven to be in his system – other than caffeine. The District Attorney’s office ultimately dropped the DUI charge after almost two years of the charge pending.xvi on the grounds that there was nothing illegal in Joseph Schwab’s system at the time of the arrest.xvii The District Attorney’s office forensic lab experts claim that it was “highly likely that the defendant was under the influence of a drug” but there was no way to provide this beyond a reasonable doubt.xviii Caffeine, just like alcohol, can affect the way a person physically acts and with some extreme caffeine consumption, it can raise a few eyebrows, but a DUI because of caffeine?
During this controversy, other forensic experts chimed in either their opinion on caffeine intake and driving. Edwin Smith was quoted saying that caffeine may actually improve the ability of most drivers on the road.xix Edwin Smith also stated that very few, if any, of those individuals drinking caffeine have problems functioning in a task like driving, and that most are probably doing it as well, and potentially better than they would do without it – meaning caffeine.xx
So what does it signify when a California man is cited for a DUI because of caffeine?
Drivers can receive a DUI for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol but not a DUI because of caffeine. While a simple breathalyzer test can be conducted on the scene to immediately determine if there is any alcohol in an individuals system, a blood test is required to determine if there are any drugs in that individuals system. A blood test can even determine if caffeine is in the individual’s system.
Even though many people do not view caffeine as a drug, caffeine does change your body’s brain chemistry and can have many physical side effects on the consumer. While there is a lot of discussion about the use of caffeine and the similarities it has to other illegal drugs, there is still currently no regulation for the use of caffeine while operating a motor vehicle. Even though you can receive a DUI for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and technically speaking caffeine is a drug, caffeine is not illegal and a DUI because of caffeine charge is unlikely to stand.
i See What Caffeine Does to your Brain Fusion (Accessed January 30, 2017) http://fusion.net/story/166708/what-caffeine-does-to-your-brain/
ii See Psychoactive Drugs Science Daily (Accessed January 30, 2017) https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/psychoactive_drug.htm
iv See The Affects of Caffeine on the Body Health Line (Published October 22, 2014) http://www.healthline.com/health/caffeine-effects-on-body
ix See A DUI for Caffeine? DA Makes Decision in Strange Case CNN (Published December 29, 2016) http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/29/health/dui-charge-caffeine-california-trnd/
xiii See California Man fights DUI charge for Driving Under the Influence of Caffeine The Guardian (Published December 24, 2016) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/24/california-dui-caffeine-lawsuit-solano-county
xv See A DUI for Caffeine? DA Makes Decision in Strange Case CNN (Published December 29, 2016) http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/29/health/dui-charge-caffeine-california-trnd/
xvi See California Man fights DUI charge for Driving Under the Influence of Caffeine The Guardian (Published December 24, 2016) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/24/california-dui-caffeine-lawsuit-solano-county
xvii See A DUI for Caffeine? DA Makes Decision in Strange Case CNN (Published December 29, 2016) http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/29/health/dui-charge-caffeine-california-trnd/
xix See Country Drops DUI Charge on Man Who Tested Positive for Caffeine Fox News Health (Published December 29, 2016) http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/12/29/county-drops-dui-charge-on-man-who-tested-positive-for-caffeine.html