“Don’t drink and drive,” a phrase in which the meaning is understood as do not consume alcohol and operate a motor vehicle.
A California man named Joseph Schwab has a case that challenges that understanding completely. He has been charged with driving under the influence of a drug – caffeine.
Mr. Schwab was arrested on August 5 of last year after being pulled over by a California alcoholic beverage control agent in an unmarked car. The agent claimed Schwab’s driving indicated he was driving under the influence.
A breathalyzer revealed a blood alcohol content of 0.00%.
Convinced he was on something, authorities took Schwab to jail and drew blood, which was tested in a laboratory. The blood test came back negative after it had been screened for cocaine, opiates, oxycodone and all kinds of other drugs few people can pronounce. Never one to give up, law enforcement sent the sample out to another laboratory, presumably to see if they could find anything in the blood.
They charged Schwab with driving while impaired after finding only caffeine in his blood, at which time the authorities decided to pursue the case against him.
Interestingly, the district attorney’s office insists that Schwab is not being prosecuted on the basis of the caffeine in his system.
I assure you that defendants in this country have the right to know the charges against them and the basis of those charges. It’s a fundamental right of our legal system. Schwab’s attorney has asked for any evidence beyond that which is mentioned above, which reports all drug findings to be negative except for caffeine–and so far she has been given nothing.
Because California defines the term “drugs” so broadly, a theoretical case could technically be brought before the court. They are many substances with the potential to affect your brain, nervous system or muscles. And if you have those “drugs” in your system and they prevent you from operating your vehicle in the same manner as a sober person, then you are impaired. Could coffee do that to you? Seems possible. So could many cold and allergy medicines too.
Meanwhile, Schwab’s attorney has asked the court to throw out his case so he can get on with his life.