Many people think that the only way to get charged for operating under the influence (OUI) in Maine is to drive while drunk. However, this is not the case. Instead, you can get arrested, charged, and convicted for OUI if you’re under the influence of an intoxicant of any kind. This includes alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or even prescription drugs.
In theory, this could also include caffeine, because it’s a drug that can impair how well someone can drive a car. In practice, though, no one had been arrested for being under the influence of caffeine. However, that’s exactly what happened to a driver in California.
The case began in August 2015, when Joseph Schwab was pulled over on the highway in Solano County, outside the city of San Francisco. The arresting officer, an agent for the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, was driving an unmarked car when, according to her statement, Mr. Schwab cut her off and drove away erratically.
When he was pulled over, Mr. Schwab consented to a breath test, but the results were negative. Because the officer decided that he was still under the influence of something, she arrested him and brought him into the station, where he gave a blood sample. The blood test confirmed the breathalyzer – there was no alcohol or any other kind of narcotics in his system. The only thing the blood test revealed was that Mr. Schwab had caffeine in his system. Nevertheless, California prosecutors decided to charge him with OUI.
Mr. Schwab’s case is still working its way through the California state courts and has yet to go to trial.
Charging someone with OUI for driving while “under the influence” of caffeine is a classic example of overreaching by law enforcement. If they do manage to convince courts that OUI laws apply to drivers who have caffeine in their systems, then police will quickly get swamped with arrests, as nearly everyone on the road for the morning commute has at least some caffeine in their system from their morning coffee. Worse, drivers could start counting on facing an OUI charge after being pulled over for even the tiniest traffic infraction.
An OUI conviction for someone who has caffeine in their system would set a dangerous precedent that could impact some basic aspects of how we live in the U.S. The severe impact that it would have on some of our basic freedoms suggests that whatever judge is on the case will heavily scrutinize anything that the prosecutors say.
It is cases like these that highlight the importance of having a solid OUI-defense attorney on your side if you get pulled over and charged for OUI. If you’re facing an OUI charge in the state of Maine, hiring OUI-defense attorney William T. Bly can be the best way to avoid the costly penalties that come with a conviction. Contact his law office online or at (207) 571-8146.
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