Australian-British comedian Tim Minchin once quipped, “It’s the fine balance of caffeine and alcohol that bookends my days.”

Therefore it is not surprising that in California, being the most unbalanced state in this great Union, someone was recently charged with Drinking Under the Influence…with caffeine as the only suspect.

Joseph Schwab was pulled over in August 2015 in Fairfield, California. According to a statement from the Solano County District Attorney’s office, the officer at the scene was suspicious because of Schwab’s “erratic and reckless driving” and his “demeanor” and “performance on a number of field sobriety tests.”

The officer charged Schwab with a DUI, and the charge stood even when his blood sample tested negative for drugs such as cocaine, THC and opiates.

Surprised by the negative results, the District Attorney’s office then ordered more testing. After much time and analysis, the investigators concluded that caffeine was the only substance in his bloodstream at the time.

According to California law, a drug is any substance that isn’t alcohol that might “impair, to an appreciable degree” a driver’s capability behind the wheel. How the state might attempt to argue caffeine did that to Schwab, we are not sure.

“No one believed me that I only had caffeine in my system until I showed them the lab results,” said Schwab…. “I want the charges to be dismissed and my name to be cleared.”

The DA’s office argued that the charges were not due to Schwab’s overdosing on coffee.

“The charge of driving under the influence is not based upon the presence of caffeine in his system,” in the prosecutor’s words. The question is whether, following tests that the defense lawyer says clear Mr. Schwab of any suggestion of intoxicants in his system, the prosecution should have to explain its reasons for not dropping charges originally premised on what an officer said was erratic driving.

Apparently no evidence of another intoxicant was found, and Schwab got a New Year’s Eve miracle: The charges have now been dropped. Furthermore, a forensic scientist who reviewed the case indicated that caffeine actually helps improve driving skills.

Forensic toxicologist Edwin Smith told the news station that caffeine may actually improve the ability of most drivers.

“Very few, if any, of those people are having problems functioning in a task like driving,” Smith told Fox 6. “Most are probably doing it as well, and potentially even better than they would do without it.”

As I sit here swilling my Christmas Blend brew, I will add to Smith’s remarks that I personally do better at everything once I have had my cup of morning coffee. It pairs nicely with the other bookend of my day, which is a delicious port that was a Christmas gift from my best friend.


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