NO, A CALIFORNIA MAN DID NOT GET ARRESTED DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CAFFEINE
Maybe you read the many news stories recently about the Solano County man who was stopped and arrested for DUI when an officer observed him driving erratically, so erratically that it was reported he almost caused several accidents. He field tested a 0.00% blood alcohol level but he was still arrested and taken in for a blood test because the officer suspected he was under the influence of a substance other than alcohol. The blood test came back positive…. for caffeine, nothing else, and boy did the media run with it. This story got so much traction it was even reported by CNN and other big-time news outlets.
What many of the news stories neglected to report is that the police believe he was under the influence of a substance that did not show up on the toxicology tests. The Solano County District Attorney even made it clear that he was not arrested for the caffeine in his system. But that didn’t stop the media from reporting the sensationalist headline: “CALIFORNIA MAN ARRESTED, CHARGED WITH DRIVING UNDE THE INFLUENCE OF CAFFEINE,” neglecting to mention (or leaving it as an afterthought at the bottom of the article) that the district attorney said it was not the caffeine that prompted the DUI charge. You can almost bet that this will become an urban myth with people swearing that you can be arrested for driving under the influence of caffeine.
I think this may have just been a brilliant defense ploy by the driver or the driver’s attorney. After all, someone had to alert the media in the first place. If that’s the case, it worked. The district attorney dropped the charges shortly after this became headline news.
But this case brings us to a question: What substances that have the potential to impair driving ability do not show up on toxicology tests? I have previously discussed the problems with identifying marijuana in a driver’s system for the purpose of DUI laws, but are there other substances that the police would not be able to identify in a toxicology test?
The chief investigator for the Solano County DA stated that, despite the dropping of the charges, he believed the driver was under the influence of a substance that is not readily identifiable on toxicology tests. Possibilities include an inhalant, some of which do not show up on blood tests, or perhaps the toxicology labs has not kept up with newer psychoactive substances, such as Ayahuasca (which is made out of the leaf and vine of a certain South American plant).
Whatever he was on, if anything, the DA would have a hard time making the case that he was driving under the influence without any evidence other than the officer’s observations. The driver is still being charged with reckless driving.
William Weinberg has almost 25 years experience defending drivers charged with driving under the influence. You may consult with him about your DUI matter by contacting him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or emailing him at Bill@williamweinber.com.