California Man Arrested For Driving Under Influence of Caffeine

Caffeine may be the brain drug of choice in America, but in Solano County, California, the stimulant could get you charged with driving under the influence.

After being pulled over on 5 August 2015, Joseph Schwab was charged by the Solano County district attorney with misdemeanor driving under the influence of a drug.

Almost 18 months later, Schwab is preparing to go to trial.  The only evidence the DA has provided of his intoxication is a blood test showing the presence of caffeine.

Shcwab was driving home from work when he was pulled over by an agent from the California department of alcoholic beverage control, who was driving an unmarked vehicle.  The agent said Schwab had cut her off and was driving erratically.

The 36-year-old union glazier was given a breathalyzer test which showed a 0.00% blood alcohol level, his attorney said.  He was booked into county jail and had his blood drawn, but the resulting toxicology report came back negative for benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, THC, carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem.

The sample was screened a second time by a laboratory in Pennsylvania, according to documents provided to the Guardian, where the sole positive result was for caffeine – a substance likely coursing through the veins of many drivers on the road at any given time.

Schwab's attorney has filed a motion for the case to be dismissed because the charges were not brought until June 2016 – nearly 10 months after incident.  If that motion is denied, Schwab will take his case to a jury on 11 January, 2017.

Sharon Henry, chief deputy district attorney for Solano County, said in a statement that her office was “conducting further investigation in this matter.”

“It’s really stupid,” said Jeffrey Zehnder, a forensic toxicologist who frequently testifies in court cases.  Over 41 years, Zehnder said, he had never seen a prosecution for driving under the influence of caffeine.

“If that’s the case, then they better come and arrest me,” he joked.

California vehicle code defines a “drug” 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.

Making that case with caffeine would be difficult, Zehnder said, because the prosecutor would have to show that impaired driving was specifically caused by the caffeine and not any other circumstances.

“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,” he said.

Well, we care about it.  Without weighing in on California, a state long known for its strange progressive ideas, the Adventist Health message is clear.  We are better off without it: 

Tea and coffee drinking is an injurious indulgence, which, like other evils, injures the soul.  These darling idols create an excitement, a morbid action of the nervous system; and after the immediate influence of the stimulants is gone, it lets down below par just to that degree that its stimulating properties elevated above par" {Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 425}.
The habit of drinking tea and coffee is a greater evil than is often suspected.  Many who have accustomed themselves to the use of stimulating drinks, suffer from headache and nervous prostration, and lose much time on account of sickness.  They imagine they cannot live without the stimulus, and are ignorant of its effect upon health.  What makes it the more dangerous is, that its evil effects are so often attributed to other causes. {Ibid., pp. 421, 422}

Medical findings on caffeine:


Some suggestions for people addicted to coffee:

  1. Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine.
  2. If drinking tea and coffee has become  a habit so that you must have it in order to function in the morning, try tapering off until you don't need it anymore.  You may experience headaches and anxiety for a while, but once free from the drug you will feel much better as your body begins to detox.
  3. If you are with a friend or group of friends that drink the stuff, just politely say that you don't drink tea or coffee.  Order some orange juice, or water with lime.

America and much of the western world are highly addicted to stimulants, with coffee heading the list. The average American worker spends between $1000 and $1700 annually on the brown liquid.  After crude oil, coffee is the most sought after commodity in the world; Coffee is worth over $100 billion worldwide. That puts it ahead of commodities like natural gas, gold, oil, sugar and corn.

As we understand it, the sin in using these things is that they are harmful to the body, which God has told us to care for properly as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).  We are not our own, and when we belong to Christ we may not feel at liberty to do as we please if it is contrary to His will.  Said Paul, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).

God bless!