People have been arrested for some pretty strange reasons, but getting a DUI for driving while caffeinated possibly tops the list. However, a California man is currently battling the state because police slapped him with a DUI after pulling him for driving erratically, even though breathalyzer and chemical tests showed he wasn't under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The only chemical in his system was caffeine. Depending on how the law is worded and other factors, it may be possible for prosecutor to get this charge to stick. Here's what you need to know about this issue to protect yourself if you land in a similar situation.
Impairment is the Key
It is true DUI laws were designed to target people who drive after taking illicit drugs or drinking. However, society has changed quite a bit since DUI laws were enacted and those laws were amended to keep up with the times.
There are a number of substances—including prescription medicines—that can inhibit a person's ability to drive safely. Therefore, it's not unusual for a prosecutor to focus on the effect a substance has on a person rather than whether or not the substance is an intoxicant. The only exception is alcohol, where you will get a DUI if your blood alcohol content is over the legal limit, even if you are not showing signs of impairment.
This is how people who take legal medication can end up with DUIs on their records. A diabetic who accidentally takes too much insulin and begins driving erratically could be arrested and charged with a DUI because his or her low blood sugar impaired the person too much to drive safely. It doesn't help that diabetics can give inaccurate BAC readings on breathalyzer tests due to the way sugar is handled (or rather mishandled) in the body, thus giving officers the impression those individuals are drunk when they're actually suffering medical emergencies.
While caffeine may seem like the most innocuous substance around, it can land you in jail if it has a negative impact on your ability to drive a vehicle. For instance, if caffeine makes you extremely excitable and causes you to become unfocused on the road, you could find yourself being pulled over and jailed.
Defending Yourself in Court
It's one thing to be charged with a DUI where the only substance in your system is caffeine. It's quite another thing for the prosecution to prove its case against you. To secure a conviction, the prosecutor has to prove to the court that you were, in fact, driving while impaired to make the charge stick. If the prosecutor can't prove you were impaired, the case may be dismissed or you may be convicted of lesser charges, such as reckless driving.
The ease in which you're able to refute the prosecutor's contention you were intoxicated will depend on the circumstances. Prosecutors use a variety of evidence to prove their cases, of which chemical testing and breathalyzers are only one part. The prosecutor may present police reports and testimony, eye witness testimony, video evidence, and other resources to show you were driving while impaired.
Getting the charges dismissed or reduced will depend on how well you can provide alternative explanations for your behavior. For example, if police say you were weaving between the lanes, you could admit to texting while driving, which is a significantly less offense than a DUI. Your case can be further helped if your chemical tests show you weren't on any intoxicating substance and you submit medical reports showing you don't suffer from medical conditions that would cause impaired driving.
Avoiding being convicted of a DUI in a situation where you didn't actually consume drugs or alcohol can be challenging. It's essential to work with an attorney who can help you defend yourself and get the outcome your want. For more information about this issue, contact a traffic or criminal defense attorney. Click here for info on DUI and law.