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Motorist fighting DUI charges after testing positive for caffeine

Motorist fighting DUI charges after testing positive for caffeine
A Fairfield, California man is facing charges of driving under the influence – of coffee. The authorities did not drop the case even though blood tests came up negative for all drugs except caffeine, which experts say may actually improve driving skills.

Joseph A. Schwab, 36, was arrested while driving home from work in August 2015. An alcohol beverage control agent pulled him over on Interstate 680, saying he was driving erratically. When she administered the field sobriety test, Schwab’s pupils were dilated.

“The driver seemed very amped up, very agitated, very combative, and she thought he was under the influence of something,” Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams told Sacramento’s KCRA-TV.

Schwab was arrested and taken to jail, where he agreed to a blood test. He tested negative for cocaine, marijuana, opiates, methamphetamine, oxycodone and several other drugs. The only thing in his system was caffeine, which is not illegal.

Abrams is still prosecuting the case, however, to the shock of Schwab’s attorney Stacy Barrett.

“I didn't believe it,” Barrett said. “I actually consulted with the other attorneys in my office, to make sure that I wasn't missing something.”

The DA will argue that Schwab must have been under the influence of some other drug that the test does not screen for, she told KCRA.

“This is a case without a blood result, right, so it makes it a very difficult challenge to prove in court to not have the blood result,” Abrams said.

Barrett has filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that caffeine is not a crime.

Forensic toxicologist Edwin Smith told KCRA that while caffeine is technically a drug, it doesn’t typically impair driving. If anything, coffee improves the ability of most drivers to focus, Smith said.

Schwab says that the ordeal has hurt him financially and damaged his reputation.

“Looks like I’m undependable,” he told KCRA. “And when you tell this type of story to somebody, they are naturally not going to believe you.”

Fairfield is a city of about 100,000, midway between San Francisco and Sacramento, the state capital.