Monder Law Group - News
Dead end caffeine DUI case dropped against Fairfield California man
With the jury trial date that had been set for January 11th, the Solano County District Attorney dropped the misdemeanor DUI charge Joseph Schwab was saddled with in 2015. What started out as a typical drive home, ended up as something more when a California Alcoholic Beverage Control agent in an unmarked car claimed Schwab cut off her vehicle. The agent further reported he then proceeded to drive recklessly, including weaving in and out of traffic, a clear danger to other motorists. Nothing of note was found inside his vehicle, and toxicology tests only revealed caffeine levels. Despite this, prosecutors originally were determined to proceed. As a result of the ensuing national media attention the DA’s office appeared on the defensive, indicated by their press release after the DUI charge was dismissed.
Solano County prosecutors have stuck to their guns regarding the reason for the charge, despite the media explosion over 18 months after the occurrence of the alleged crime. The delay was due to a ten month long attempt for dismissal of charges that ultimately failed as the case proceeded on to trial scheduling in June 2016. The DA’s office insists the case itself was never about caffeine, and the arresting officer had a hefty compilation of observed behavior that significantly impacted their original decision to proceed with the case. Naturally they were forced to relent in what would have been an uphill battle of prosecution when the majority of evidence remained in Schwab’s favor.
Schwab’s original breathalyzer testing results were reportedly 0%, without even the slightest hint of blood alcohol level to be found in his system. Following that, standard blood testing was performed post-arrest, once again resulting in a toxicology report that was negative for all tested substances with the exception of caffeine. Despite this, Schwab was still booked into county jail, business as usual for many DUI arrests. Desperation testing at an additional lab, across the country in Pennsylvania, confirmed those same results. It would appear that media spotlight pressure played a large part in the dropping of the case against the defendant as even with zero chemical proof the DA’s office was intent on surging toward seeking a conviction. No new evidence had been revealed since that time, but understandably, the attention the case has received so close to trial date has turned it around.
In all fairness to DA’s office, they are correct that DUI is not about what substance you are under the influence of, but instead about the danger you present with your reckless and impaired driving. This is the reason individuals can be convicted of a DUI for normal, legal medications such as Benadryl or cough medicines. In that respect, it would neither be impossible or illegal to proceed forward with a case against a reckless driver with only caffeine in his or her system. However, proving said impairment is likely to be hard, not to mention the array of skeptic specialists likely to line up for the defense against the unheard of assertion. Forensic toxicologist Edwin Smith is one of those specialists, asserting that caffeine is most likely to improve driving ability if it affects it at all.
The question remains, was Schwab destined for a DUI conviction if his case hadn’t reached critical mass in the media? It is possible but improbable. The chemical testing evidence is regarded very heavily in many DUI cases, and in this example the prosecution essentially provided the defense an advantage with the negative reports. That said, officer testimony and observations still count for something and are genuinely trusted indisputably unless evidence to the contrary can be found. DUI with drugs is very subjective in nature, giving individual observations greater importance. It was alleged that Schwab was quite combative during the duration of the traffic stop, and his field sobriety test performance was not up to par for passing. Arresting officers need to make decisions based on their own observations and this combined with his alleged erratic driving is sufficient to make the determination.
In all likelihood, the charge would never have stood, provided the defendant hired a knowledgeable and experienced DUI defense attorney. The implications of a conviction for the majority of drivers who zip around daily under the influence of coffee, soda or other caffeinated substances would certainly prove interesting. Ultimately the pursuit of charges was not deemed worth it given the circumstances of the case. According to ABC 7 News, in her recent press release, Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams said: “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”. That statement indicates a belief that there was possibly additional drug use that could not be detected by a standard toxicology result. Even if this were the case, at over 18 months after the original occurrence it would not be worth the time or effort to pursue the theory, especially for only a misdemeanor charge.
If convicted of a misdemeanor DUI, Schwab would be facing an assortment of penalties both criminal and otherwise. While first time DUI penalties are rarely steep, depending on your choice of career they can have far-reaching effects. Typically, the minimum penalties for a first time misdemeanor DUI include:
- $1,800 in penalties, including necessary DUI assessments
- Informal probation for three to five years
- Three months of DUI school at the cost of $500, paid by you
- Six months of administrative license suspension via the DMV
- Up to six months in county jail
Alternative sentencing can be an option, especially for first-time offenders and those with no other problematic history. This result is only likely to occur with a defense attorney who will represent you effectively, which is far less likely when settling for the services of a public defender. When your criminal record and potentially your freedom is on the line, hiring professional representation could keep you out of jail and even get your charges dismissed. Very few DUI charged defendants can garner the national media attention gained by this case, which no doubt impacted it’s dismissal. However, every individual can work to secure themselves a skilled DUI defense attorney who will fight to achieve the same result, especially in cases of such unjust charges.
Criminal defense attorney Vik Monder has the skills necessary to win your case. With countless DUI victories under his belt, his expertise is unmatched when it comes to finding the weaknesses in the evidence against you. With Vik Monder you will always receive only the finest representation, an attorney unafraid to challenge false statements by officers and to retain expert witnesses in your defense. If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney for your DUI or other criminal case, contact Vik Monder for your free consultation at 619-405-0063 or visit our website at San Diego Criminal Lawyer