Charges against a California man who was charged with driving under the influence after testing positive for caffeine, were finally dropped by the county district attorney. According to a KCRA news report, the 36-year-old man was driving home in Fairfield, Calif. in August 2015 when he was pulled over by an Alcohol Beverage Control agent who claimed the man was driving erratically.
The report states that the investigating agent found workout powders in the man’s car, which were legal. After asking him to perform field sobriety tests, the agent arrested the driver. Solano County’s district attorney told KCRA that the driver at the time had seemed “very amped up, very agitated, very combative” and that the agent believed he “was under the influence of something.” The driver agreed to undergo a blood test in jail and the results came back negative for everything, except caffeine.
The reasoning given by the district attorney’s office for pursuing this DUI charge against the driver on the basis of nothing but caffeine detected in his blood was that it “seemed,” based on the agent’s account that the driver was “definitely on something.” But his blood work results had come back negative for cocaine, THC, opiates, methamphetamine, oxycodone and several other drugs.
While caffeine is technically a drug, it is not associated with impaired driving. On the other hand, experts and scientists have recommended that drivers drink caffeine to enhance their focus, particularly if they are feeling a little tired or drowsy. In this case, the district attorney had to eventually drop the charges because there was no evidence that the driver was under the influence of anything else but caffeine.
This bizarre case is just an example of how you could be charged with driving under the influence even when you are not under the influence of anything. This case is an example of how wrong an investigating officer can be while questioning and testing a driver for symptoms of DUI. In this case, the agent administered field sobriety tests and observed that the driver’s pupils were dilated. And yet, the blood test showed no signs of alcohol or drugs in the driver’s system.
Our Southern California DUI defense lawyers have come across a number of cases where several factors have led to false positive DUIs. Here are a few examples.
Mouth Alcohol: When an individual is pulled over under the suspicion of DUI, there are usually required to take a Breathalyzer test to determine whether their blood alcohol content or BAC is above the 0.08 percent legal limit. Often times, the reading may be inaccurate because the machine may not be properly calibrated. Inaccuracies also occur because a reading might be affected by mouth alcohol.
What can cause mouth alcohol to be present? There are a number of factors including the use of mouthwash, breath fresheners, chewing tobacco, having acid reflux or even when a person is wearing dentures. The Breathalyzer is only supposed to test air from the lungs. However when it measures mouth alcohol, the test is invalid. A police officer who tests a driver is required under California law to wait 15 minutes because administering test. This is to ensure that the person does not eat, drink or smoke anything that might affect the reading.
Medications: The drugs (over-the-counter or prescription) that you take might trigger a higher BAC reading either because they contain alcohol or because they contain ingredients that can trigger a false positive. Certain cold and flu medications such as Anbesol have been known to cause high BAC readings because of their high alcohol content.
Some Vicks cough medications also contain a high percentage of alcohol. Another medicine that can trigger a high reading is NyQuil. Even something as commonplace as cough drops could contain alcohol. Inhalers used for asthma such as Albuterol could also trigger a false positive. If you are taking any medications, whether they are prescription or over the counter, be sure to check the label information.
Diet: It is possible for Breathalyzers to get fooled by acetone in the breath. For example, if you are on a low-carbohydrate diet, your body may be burning fat for energy, which results in the product of ketones and acetone. A Breathalyzer could detect acetone, which could in turn result in a higher BAC reading. This could also happen to people who are fasting. Sometimes, even food like donuts and cinnamon rolls could result in false positives. This is because these foods contain yeast and sugar, which are the two ingredients used to produce alcohol.
Environmental factors: Sometimes, the environment where you live or work could trigger a false Breathalyzer reading. For example, if you are exposed to acetone at work because you are a painter, that could cause your breath test results to become inflated.
The moral of the story in such cases is to never assume that you are at fault or are guilty. If you have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Southern California, you may be looking at a number of serious consequences including jail time, fines, going through alcohol or drug counseling and losing your driver’s license. These consequences could also have other repercussions such as losing your job because you are unable to drive without your license.
As you can see, you could blow a 0.08 not because you ingested alcohol or used drugs, but simply because of your health condition or the legal medications you took before driving. It is also extremely common for police officers to use faulty instruments or to get a wrong reading simply because they lack the necessary training.
If you have been arrested or charged with a DUI, you need an experienced Southern California DUI defense attorney on your side, one who will fight for and protect your rights every step of the way. Call the Law Offices of Randy Collins to obtain a free and comprehensive consultation from one of our skilled attorneys. We are here to help.