Friday, December 30, 2016

Driving While Caffeinated? California Prosecutor Pursues Outrageous Case

Yahoo reports on a bizarre prosecution taking place in California:
If you picked up a coffee this morning on your way to work you were driving in the same condition that Joseph Schwab was when he was pulled over and arrested for “driving under the influence.” Schwab, a California man who was pulled over by an agent of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control department, is now fighting back.  
Guardian reports that Schwab was initially placed in custody after the Alcoholic Beverage Control agent claimed he was driving erratically. The 36-year-old blew a 0.00% on a breathalyzer but was taken to the country jail anyway. There he had his blood drawn, but that test came up negative for every illicit drug on the list as well as alcohol. Not satisfied that Schwab had already passed both tests, law enforcement sent his blood off to a lab in Pennsylvania for another scan. That test showed that the only thing in Schwab’s veins other than blood was caffeine. 
Despite all of this, Schwab was eventually charged — a full 10 months after he was initially pulled over and arrested — with a DUI. Now, Schwab’s lawyer, Stacey Barrett, is demanding that the case be thrown out. If the court decides to proceed, Schwab wants to see how a jury feels about the whole situation. 
The chief deputy district attorney for the county said the DUI charge was not due to the caffeine in his system, but as every other test has shown that Schwab was clean as a whistle, his lawyer insists that’s all it possibly could be. The deputy noted that the office was “conducting further investigation,” though failed to explain what that actually means.
Consider if this prosecution actually succeeds and a prohibition on driving while having coffee in one's system sweeps the country.  Imagine how many more traffic accidents there were be with half-asleep motorists behind the wheel.
I've often argued that Indiana gives prosecutors too much authority that allow them to pursue baseless charges and judges too little latitude to dismiss those charges.  I remember a few years ago when Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry prosecuted a charge against a young man for illegally possessing a gun because he had a picture of a gun (not him holding the gun, just a picture of a gun) on his phone.  The judge couldn't dismiss the charge which meant that the accused had to go through all the way to the end of the process, risking a criminal conviction, to escape the charge which he ultimately did when a bench trial ended in acquittal. 


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