Despite what news outlets will have you think, driving while caffeinated isn’t a crime
On December 26, The Free Thought Project reported that a California man, Joseph Schwab, has been fighting a DUI charge for over a year.
The substance in question? Caffeine.
According to his attorney who spoke to The Guardian, Schwab was pulled over back in August of 2015 after an agent from the California department of alcohol beverage control said he cut her off and was driving erratically. The officer pulled him over and administered a Breathalyzer test, which showed a 0.00% alcohol level.
Then, Schwab had his blood drawn at the county jail, which came back negative for drugs including benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, THC, carisoprodol, methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem. A second lab screened Schwab’s blood sample, which then showed positive solely for caffeine, according to The Guardian.
So after the story broke, many news organizations blared the headline that a man was arrested for a DUI caused by caffeine.
But that’s not exactly true.
In The Guardian’s report on the story—published two days before the Free Thought Project’s—the chief deputy district attorney for Solano County said that her office was “conducting further investigation into the matter” and that the DUI charge was “not based upon the presence of caffeine in his system.”
And the district attorney’s office told Snopes.com that their prosecutors initially believed Schwab was under the influence of a substance that didn’t readily turn up on toxicology tests—he hadn’t been charged with driving under the influence of caffeine.
In fact, on December 28, the Solano County District Attorney’s Office decided to drop the DUI charges against Schwab. District Attorney Krishna Abrams still believes some other drug besides caffeine was in his system, but without a confirmatory test showing that specific drug, they can’t prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, according to KCRA News.
So don’t worry—drinking your coffee behind the wheel won’t earn you a DUI. It might actually help your driving: A study from the Netherlands found that people who drank one cup of caffeinated coffee in the middle of a boring, 4-hour driving test swerved less and maintained their speed better than those without a caffeine boost.