FAIRFIELD, California — You’ve heard of driving under the influence of alcohol — but should someone be charged for testing positive for caffeine?
A man is fighting a DUI charge, even though his blood tested negative for alcohol.
On a summer afternoon in August of 2015, 36-year-old Joseph Schwab was coming home in Fairfield, California after a long day.
“I just worked. I’m a little tired. I had an early start this morning,” Schwab said.
Suddenly, an “Alcohol Beverage Control” agent pulled him over on 680 near Gold Hill Road. She claimed he was weaving in and out of traffic, and more seriously, under the influence of a drug.
“I was 100 percent confident that I was not under the influence of anything,” Schwab said.
Krishna Abrams, Solano County’s district attorney said inside Schwab’s vehicle, the agent found legal workout powders.
“The driver seemed very amped up, very agitated, very combative, and she thought he was under the influence of something,” Abrams said.
The agent asked that Schwab perform field sobriety tests, and he was arrested.
In jail, he agreed to a blood test. The results came back negative except for one drug — caffeine.
“I didn’t believe it,” Stacy Barrett, Schwab’s attorney said.
Barrett said she doesn’t understand why the DUI charge stuck.
“I actually consulted with both of the other attorneys in my office, to make sure that I wasn’t missing something,” Barrett said.
With caffeine a daily habit for many, Edwin Smith, a forensic toxicologist said he believes if anything, the substance improves the ability of most drivers.
“Very few if any of those people are having problems functioning in a task like driving. Most are probably doing it as well, and potentially even better than they would do without it,” Smith said.
Abrams on Wednesday, December 28th decided to drop the DUI charge against Schwab.
But 16 months later, the arrest has hurt Schwab both financially and professionally.
“It looked like I was undependable and when you tell this type of story to somebody, they naturally are not going to believe it,” Schwab said.
He and his attorney fought to have the charges dropped — insisting caffeine isn’t a crime.
“I certainly hope that this isn’t something that other drivers have to be concerned about,” Barrett said.