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FAIRFIELD, Calif. – A California man was charged with driving under the influence, even though the only “drug” detected in his blood was caffeine.
The Solano County (Calif.) District Attorney’s office sought for more than 16 months to prosecute Joseph Schwab after having sent his blood samples to two different labs and turning up nothing — except the stuff found in many sodas.
“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,” forensic toxicologist and expert witness Jeffrey Zehnder told The Guardian. “It’s really stupid.”
Said Schwab’s attorney, Stacey Barrett, “I’ve never seen this before. I’ve never even heard of it.”
Schwab’s troubles began on Aug. 5, 2015, when an agent from California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, not a police officer, pulled him over. The agent alleged Schwab had cut her off and was driving erratically. She also said his pupils were dilated. A breathalyzer test for alcohol showed a level of 0.00 percent.
After he was arrested, Schwab’s blood was drawn and sent to a laboratory, which came back negative for illegal drugs. It then was sent to a lab in Pennsylvania for testing. The only substance that lab was able to detect in Schwab’s blood was caffeine.
Eventually, the district attorney dropped the DUI charge – although the office said the reckless driving charge would remain.
“After further consideration, without a confirmatory test of the specific drug in the defendant’s system that impaired his ability to drive, we do not believe we can prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” District Attorney Krishna Abrams said in a late December news release.
Abrams maintains that Schwab had something in his system – even though two lab tests detected nothing
“Do we wish that it could test for more drugs?” Abrams said. “Absolutely, because then we would know what was in his system.”
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