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California man fights DUI charge for driving under influence of caffeine (theguardian.com)
93 points by setra 313 days ago | hide | past | web | 100 comments | favorite



I overtook an off-duty police officer, who was driving his personal truck, whilst on holiday in California a few years ago (from the UK).

At the next town, I was pulled over by a police car (bull horn, hand on gun, full film-level drama). I had no idea why at the time. It was explained to me that the off-duty officer was annoyed, and called the police station in the next town.

I was told that the highway I was on was "not the autobahn" (I have never travelled on an autobahn), and given a ticket for crossing a solid lane marker. I hadn't at any point crossed a double yellow line marker. Not living in the US meant fighting it was hard, so I paid for fear of not being allowed back in the country on my next visit.

Lesson learned: people in positions of power, like this off-duty government agent, will happily use that power if someone pisses them off - and systems are in place to allow it. These systems need to be tested, fought, and abusers penalised. I'm just sorry I didn't fight harder in this instance.


This is yet another story that makes a very convincing argument for a dash cam. I do not own a dash cam, but I was involved in an accident where the other car had a dash cam, and it made the entire process relatively painless.

I was actually found at fault, but the officer who responded said the person who hit me would have been found at fault if they didn't have a dash cam. I had entered a busy street that only allowed left turns via U-turns in the median. Traffic was really heavy, and I was having a hell of a time getting over. A bus next to the U-turn lane waved me in. I entered the left turn lane about a car length past where the solid white line began. As I was entering, a teenager in a 500+ hp car floored it in to the lane. As soon as they got around the bus they saw me, but couldn't stop in time as they were nearly going the speed limit.

I was technically breaking the law, and the kid who hit me technically had full control of the lane before I did, so I was at fault.

I know both me and the person who hit me wished we had done things differently there. We were both pretty impatient because of the traffic. It would have been nice to have been found not-at-fault, but I was technically in the wrong, and the dash cam proved it.

Dash cams get a lot of press when it comes to attempted fraud, but I think cases like this are the real kicker. I know other people who have hit people who made lane changes in front of them, and they were all found at fault. Without a video camera, the vehicle behind is almost always going to be found at fault when it comes to one driver's word against another. It's really difficult to prove something like an "unsafe lane change" without video evidence, and dash cams cost far less than a deductible.


It's worth noting, you may have crossed a solid white line, instead of a solid yellow line. That being said, the exact status of the solid white line in California is annoyingly unclear.

Reference: http://www.mercurynews.com/2012/09/28/can-you-cross-a-solid-...


I actually overtook when there was a broken line (apologies, would edit my original comment if I could!), which my understanding was meant to state "you can overtake if safe" - the same in the UK.

I didn't go over the speed limit, and it was a super clear road (beautiful in fact!) - my car just had more acceleration (not being a large truck).


You could have paid it but still filed a complaint against the officer. Doubt anything would come of it but maybe still worth it?


Agreed. I definitely should have explored more options and fought it. It was actually remarkably difficult to even pay the fine from the UK, let alone file a complaint - but I guess I shouldn't have let that stop me.


Unfortunately it is a common tactic to do that on purpose like only allowing complaints to be filed in person.


Things like this is one of the reason I have a Dashcam. I want to have video proof the cop is lying if I need to challenge it.

Sadly even with Video Proof it will be a uphill battle as courts have taken a cops word over the video before.


> and systems are in place to allow it

To be fair, most regular citizens can call into the local PD if they have the phone number to report things and then Dispatch will assign/not assign officers based on priority and availability.

I worked at my campus PD when I was a student and we printed both the campus police number and local police number on our ID cards. It wasn't uncommon to get calls asking for escorts, report suspicious behavior, and other miscellaneous things not really suitable for 911.

Some can be quite comical (including some 911 calls). EG::

> http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Davis-residents-calling-9...

(Note some of the calls were to 911 and not directly to the PD)


That is normal - got a fake ticket in Florence Italy had to pay


Abrams insisted the case was "never about caffeine," and she insisted that Schwab had to have been under the influence of another drug that didn’t show up in the test. Not all drugs do under standard rounds of testing.

To paraphrase: we didn't find anything to justify the charges, but we're still going to tell everyone that he is guilty.


No, telling that someone is guilty can only be done by a court. Prosecutors can say that they believe he could be guilty. In this case, they dropped that and said that he's likely innocent.

The unfortunate thing in the US is just that most cases don't make it to court, and a lot of people plead guilty to get a deal. This is not how the system was designed, and not how it works in most other democracies.


This just shows significant parts of the government are rotten to the core. It's an issue most likely to affect people who are unable to afford good representation.

Let's be honest: courts in most western countries are only really accessible to upper middle class and/or wealthier people. If you do not have proper representation, you will probably lose in cases like these.

The fact that some random smuck is given this much power is shocking.


That is not true for most European countries. Nearly every case will land in court, and you have way fewer people ending up in jail. And if the chance that you'll get a long prison sentence is very low, people will accept a trial instead of getting a deal by pleading guilty.

Also, good lawyers in the US are more expensive than in most European countries (because university fees aren't as high), so you don't have to be rich to afford a lawyer.

Honestly, it's shocking how prosecutors can force people into pleading guilty, just because you might end up in prison for many years because of minor crimes. No other developed country has more prisoners/capita than the US, and it certainly doesn't make the US the safest country on the planet.


The issue of plea bargaining isn't so simple as it's made out to be (by people who don't have any idea of what the justice system actually does).

The overwhelming majority of people that go through the justice system are guilty. For every ambiguous charge, there are a dozen instances where someone was caught with drugs on their person,[1] clearly identified in a security tape robbing a store, etc. That's the bread and butter of the justice system.

Like every system, the courts have been optimized for the common case. That certainly has costs in the uncommon case--as optimizing for the common case always does. Maybe those costs are too much to bear. But it's not a simple issue of government being "rotten to the core."

[1] Whether you think having drugs should or should not be a crime is an entirely separate issue.


Considering the percentage of people on death row, which presumably has the highest bars for accuracy, that where found innocent I have doubts.


>by people who don't have any idea of what the justice system actually does

legal system, we do not have a Justice system it is a legal system

>The overwhelming majority of people that go through the justice system are guilty.

Guilty of victim less violation of legal Statutes that are not crimes at all. A Crime requires a complaining victim.

In order to seek justice there must be a person seeking said justice thus the need for a victim for there to be a crime. For example Growing the wrong plant does not produce a victim thus should not be considered a "crime"

>[1] Whether you think having drugs should or should not be a crime is an entirely separate issue.

No, far from it. It is the issue, the reason the courts need to be "streamlined" is because they have been over burdened by these non-crimes, as such they needed a process to shortcut due process and extort people into signing their legal rights away so they can persecute more people for more non-crimes


> No, far from it. It is the issue, the reason the courts need to be "streamlined" is because they have been over burdened by these non-crimes

Very true. If we had to actually have a trial it would interfere with the profitability of the criminalization cycle.

> shortcut due process and extort people into signing their legal rights away

Yeah, the prosecutors aren't in it to increase society's safety, or even to enforce laws, they're in it for their conviction stats. They'll do anything to game those numbers higher and it's easier to win convictions for strict liability crimes (possession, etc) so they focus on that.


Even if we concede that the overwhelming majority of people that go through the criminal justice system are guilty, US law has a presumption of innocence, perhaps for the very reason that the system should handle so many more guilty people that it makes everything much easier to assume guilt.

We have the standard "beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal trial, arguably calculated to let some criminals go to help ensure that we don't imprison as many innocent people as possible. With a presumption of innocence, the system should assume innocence even if dealing with 99.9% guilty people, and I would call any other optimization corruption enough.


But do you need to be punished if you've been caught with a small amount of drugs for personal use? Other countries drop charges if you're being caught with small amounts of certain drugs (e.g. UK, Germany), freeing up the court system and not punishing people who didn't cause any harm.


From his previous comments over the years, I presume Rayiner agrees with pretty much everyone else here that criminal punishment for possession of small amounts of drugs is a bad idea, and that criminal punishment across the board in the US is far too harsh.


Moreover: the condition of most criminal defendants being guilty is probably what we should want out of the system. If a substantial larger number of defendants weren't easy cases, we should instead be worried that prosecutors --- already in a fraught relationship with the public they ostensibly serve --- were further victimizing them by taking flyers.


> No, telling that someone is guilty can only be done by a court. Prosecutors can say that they believe he could be guilty. In this case, they dropped that and said that he's likely innocent.

Just being charged with a felony means you are ineligible for conceal carry in a lot of places, even if you are found innocent in court.

That implies at the very least, that you are and will always be suspected guilty (on some level) even if the court never finds you guilty.


> Just being charged with a felony means you are ineligible for conceal carry in a lot of places, even if you are found innocent in court.

Citation please for the italicized part? That's not only unconstitutional on the federal level, but it's also unconstitutional in most if not all states in the US which issue licenses for concealed carry. It's true that while the felony charge is still pending, the accused temporarily waives their right to carry and may have their licensed suspended, however once the case is closed and the person is found not guilty or the charge is dropped, their license is to be immediately reinstated barring any other disqualification. Here's an example[1] from Florida law, other states have similar provisions.

[1] http://www.criminaldefenseattorneytampa.com/career-consequen...


First thing I could find in a minute:

> have in the preceding five years a history of violent behavior

http://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/open-and-conc...

If you are charged, it'll be assumed that you've had a history of violence (depending on the offense)

Then there's California:

> California law allows Police Chiefs and County Sheriffs to issue a license to carry a concealed firearm if the following requirements are met: 1. Upon proof that the person applying is of good moral character 2. That good cause exists for the issuance 3. The applicant is a resident of the county or city to which they are applying (or the applicant’s place of employment is within the city or county) 4. The applicant has completed a course of training (16-24 hours)

http://www.usacarry.com/california_concealed_carry_permit_in...

And why people will be denied

> those lacking “good moral character,” and > people who cannot demonstrate “good cause” to carry a weapon.

http://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/open-and-conc...


Sorry, yeah I forgot about California. I'm honestly surprised it's legal for anyone to own a gun in that state. DC is also infamous for strict gun laws (for example having to register your weapon), as is Illinois. In states that adhere more closely to the US Constitution, it's more difficult to deny legally able citizens to carry.

I do wish all states would adopt California's training course requirement, though. As much as I am proud of my legal right to bear arms, I cringe at the thought of the untrained masses carrying deadly weapons they have no idea how to handle and care for. I'm also a proponent of mental health checks and domestic violence restrictions on weapons licensing.


I am intimately aware of the prosecutorial aggression of the Solano County DA.

There was a young father who worked at the sugar factory that lived in a poor neighborhood. The owner of the house next door had rented it to ex-con meth addicts who liked harassing the mother when the father wasn't home.

Calling the police in this area didn't work because they wouldn't show up. The young man had a felony on his record for doing donuts then running from the police as an 18 year old which precludes him from owning a firearm legally, but out of fear for his family he purchased one.

On a particular bad day three men were stalking the house with his wife inside, he rushed back from work to find them harassing her on his lawn. One looked like he kept reaching for a gun behind his back.

The young father got his firearm and told them all to leave (note the police won't come at this point). The man with a "gun" gets more aggressive and as things escalate, during another sudden movement, the father shoots him once in the side.

Now that a gun has been fired the police come. The man dies on the front lawn. The officers, aware of the degree of harassment, tell the father that he was justified and that it will be okay. They all file reports to that effect.

The Solano County DA prosecutes the father for the manslaughter and felon in possession of a firearm. As a leveraging tool the manslaughter charge is dropped but the felon with a firearm puts him in the penitentiary for 7 years. He had a 6 month old and a 4 year old when he went in.

The Solano County DA knew they could win so they did, there was no benefit to the community. Solano is full of poor people that can be easily victimized, it's a heartbreaking environment.


Why didn't they call the county sheriff if the local police were not responding? Why didn't the father have his second amendment rights restored prior to purchasing a firearm?


Last I've heard, the channels for getting second amendment rights restored are poorly documented and not often used, and for practical purposes are impossible to follow to completion without expensive lawyers that put the idea of it far out of reach of lower-income people.

It's a particularly tough issue to get political movement on because the Left mostly likes helping felons get back to a normal life, but hates any kind of gun rights for anyone, while the Right likes gun rights, but doesn't much like helping felons.


I'm assuming they must have been in unincorporated/county jurisdiction as it was the county DA prosecuting and not the city one. County police are also far more likely to fail to respond in many places as county departments have vast amounts of area to cover with ever shrinking amounts of manpower due to budget constraints.

That said, I have no idea how CA'slaw enforcement/county government/judicial/legal system might differ from that of the states I've lived in.


> I'm assuming they must have been in unincorporated/county jurisdiction as it was the county DA prosecuting and not the city one.

This assumption is based on false premises; to wit, that there is such a thing as a "city DA" with a different geographical focus than the District Attorney of the county in which the city is located, such that offenses in city limits are prosecuted by the "city DA" and those in unincorporated areas are prosecuted by the "county DA". In California, however, DAs offices are county offices which cover all of the county, both incorporated and unincorporated areas; no city has its own DAs office (well, except San Francisco, but that's because the City and County of San Francisco is one entity.)


I am not familiar enough with the circumstances to say but I'd suspect it was an issue of jurisdiction. Whatever police forces covered that area didn't have the funding to address "nuisance" complaints. The police were well aware of the situation and apologetic for their inability to help, the men involved in the harassment were all repeat convicts (one was a pedophile).

My father has a felony conviction from the late 70's and has paid a fair amount of money trying to get his second amendment rights restored. California sucks about guns.


> Why didn't the father have his second amendment rights restored prior to purchasing a firearm?

If the felony was in federal court, that requires a Presidential pardon.

If it was a California state court, it requires either a state pardon, or an after-the-fact reduction of the felony to a misdemeanor (which is not allowed for all offenses.)

These are all rather exceptional processes; in general, both the federal and state bans on felons having guns are lifetime bans.


- How can it be possible that someone gets a criminal record for doing something stupid (but not reckless) with a car?

- How can it be possible that when someone calls the police and the police ignore them?

- How can it possible that someone who has problems with the neighbors thinks that the most sensible thing to do is to buy a gun?

- How can it be possible that a discussion in the lawn ends with a dead person?


So there was an ex-felon with an illegally obtained firearm, who used it--albeit defensively--in a homicide, and that's prosecutorial aggression?

We'll never know for sure if the gun helped or hurt this man's family safety, as the mere presence of a gun can escalate a situation out of control.

But even from the facts that you mention, it's hard to call this unnecessary prosecution.


Not homicide, manslaughter by definition.

There are two questions: 1) How much value was provided to society by prosecuting this man so aggressively? (a lesser sentence that allowed him to continue to work and care for his family would have seemed more beneficial for society)

2) Under the circumstances regarding law enforcement availability and his historic transgressions what was a lawful and economically feasible means for this man to protect his family? These men were intimating that they would rape his wife without going so far as to threaten it. When police respond to reports of a man with a gun by saying "call back once someone is shot then we can send someone," what are the options available to this man?


I question I ask and what so many fail to do is "If I was in this mans shoes, what would I do?”

Do you allow your wife to live in fear and pray the police arrive in time?

Or do you go ask your buddy down the street to loan you his pistol, show it to her in case she needs it, and let her know that she is protected?

I simply wasn't raised to be the first man and given the facts as stated by the previous poster don't see any other course of action (assuming he is not wealthy enough to move). How do you live with yourself if she ended up raped?


That was the same conclusion that I reached, it's easy to prescribe justice and solutions from a vacuum protected by law enforcement, but in that actual situation I don't think I could've taken different actions from him.


There's a lot of if's here. My only point is that it didn't sound like an obvious overreach by prosecution.

Would I risk gun ownership if I thought my family was in imminent danger? Without question. I would have even done so even if I risked significant jail time.

But here, it's not just "borrowing" a firearm from a friend, it was an illegal purchase. Did this person look into restoring their gun-rights due to extenuating circumstances?

Was justice served? Hard to said because, as I said, we don't have all of the information.

But it's also hard to say that somebody convicted of felon in possession of a firearm, who was in fact both a felon and in possession of a firearm, was an abuse of the legal system.


Manslaughter may not have even been the harshest puninshment, since depending on the circumstances, you could argue the act was a death during the commission of a felony.

IANAL, but jail time is not only protective, but punitive and a deterrent. Illegally obtained firearms are a huge problem in the US.

You and I know only anecdotal details about this case so arguing about societal impacts and fair self-defense are pointless.


I read about the case.

They dropped the DUI charges but are still going after him for reckless driving.

http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Prosecutor-drops-DUI-cha...


  “Without a confirmatory test of the specific drug in the 
  defendant’s system that impaired his ability to drive, we 
  do not believe we can prove the charge beyond a reasonable 
  doubt,” said Krishna Abrams, the district attorney.
I'm bothered by the "armchair conviction" here by the DA. I get this is probably standard lawyer boilerplate, but she's insinuating his guilt in the court of public opinion. Is there a libel/slander case here? (Probably not.)

Second, I'm confused whether he was charged with reckless driving at the time of arrest, or if this is a later charge. Also confused about the "charges were not brought until... nearly 10 months after incident" line in the original article.

I'm assuming the story goes like this:

Man was pulled over for driving erratically (e.g., weaving through traffic). He is given a field sobriety test and fails. He is charged with DUI and reckless driving. The initial blood test reveals no known (i.e., testable) substances of which he could have been under the influence. The sample is sent for a second, more intensive round of testing. It reveals no new information other than caffeine. The DUI charge is not immediately dropped, and the defendant uses the opportunity to push the "charged for DUI for caffeine" story. The DUI charge is finally dropped. The reckless driving charge continues, and will go to court this year.

My opinion is that the DA really wanted to prosecute the DUI charge ("he had to be under the influence of something!"), so they took their sweet time trying to find an angle.


He wasn't pulled over by a cop, he was pulled over by an unmarked non traffic related officer of some sort.

This one screams to me that his main offense was pissing off someone with authority in an unmarked car who went on to do everything possible to make his life miserable.

If I had to bet I'd suspect he got into some mild road rage incident with this state employee, flipped her off or something, and this is the payback.

Just a theory, read the story again and read between the lines of the initial reported incident.


I agree...

"he was pulled over by an agent from the California department of alcoholic beverage control, who was driving an unmarked vehicle. The agent said Schwab had cut her off and was driving erratically"

Pulled over by an alcohol beverage control agent whom he had cut off. Oy.


This seems most likely. I've known ABC agents to be a bit overzealous -- plainclothes agents drew pistols on (and cuffed) some girls in my hometown. Their offense was carrying a case of sparkling water that I guess looked like alcohol?

http://www.nbc29.com/story/23909588/virginia-abc-agents-viol...


"Violated policy". Wowza. Pointing a gun at someone during false-arrest for something that isn't even a crime, is a mere policy violation.

Then the court seals the records to hide this, and the main policy change is that a uniformed cop must be present during this (these were undercover cops who'd pulled the guns) instead of - you know - not arresting someone at gunpoint for the pointless crime of buying bootleg liquor even if it was actually liquor.


> read between the lines of the initial reported incident.

I don't understand this reading between the lines.

You're disregarding a lot of facts here. If you're in a road rage incident with somebody as a state employee, you'll be wanting to reduce paperwork instead of increase it. You don't want a paper record at all, or if you have a paper record, you'll want it for something like resisting arrest or something vague like that.

Second, an equally valid reading is that this guy was driving erratically, the officer pulled him over because she thought that he was enough of a danger to the public that he should be stopped, and he was acting as though he was too impaired to drive.

Then the DA, based on the officer's testimony, wanted to get the driver for DUI as that's a more serious crime, but settled on reckless driving based on lack of evidence.

That fits the facts far better.


A minor nit but ABC claim to have some involvement with vehicles.

ABC are hiring.

http://www.abc.ca.gov/

here's the job spec.

<---begin quote--->

THE POSITION

The Agent, Alcoholic Beverage Control, is a deep class with three alternate ranges. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, conducting independent investigations of criminal and/or administrative violations committed on or about alcoholic beverage control licensed premises by licensees, their employees, and/or members of the general public; and interpreting and explaining the provisions of the laws, rules, and regulations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, Penal Code, Health and Safety Code, and Vehicle Code.

Agents at Range A are entry level and conduct independent investigations of criminal and/or administrative violations committed on or about alcoholic beverage control licensed premises by licensees, their employees, and/or members of the general public; locate and interview witnesses and persons suspected of violations; collect and preserve evidence to support administrative action and/or prosecution; determine type of case and develop investigation plan; prepare clear, concise, and accurate documents and reports detailing investigation activities and findings; maintain accurate master investigation case files; develop field operation plans, and safely executing them; perform undercover assignments and surveillance operations; provide technical assistance to law enforcement agencies and others; make physical arrests; maintain liaison with Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies; and testify in criminal court and/or administrative hearings.

Agents at Range B are journey level and conduct more complex and difficult investigations and demonstrate a broader knowledge and application of investigative techniques and procedures. Agents, in addition to the above, conduct undercover and high-profile criminal investigations; and write, secure, and serve arrest and search warrants.

Agents at Range C are full journey level and conduct or participate in the most difficult and sensitive investigations. In addition to all of the above, investigations include, but are not limited to, vice, gambling, prostitution

<---end quote--->


Yeah no not really. They don't conduct traffic stops and aren't charged with enforcing DWI laws. It's right there in your text, their job is to worry about "violations committed on or about alcoholic beverage control licensed premises" and that's what they are for.

Presumably they are sworn law enforcement officers, and as such have the technical ability to enforce the law generally, but it's really clear that the person in question has a job enforcing liquor license law, and was outside their normal job description on this one.

It's equivalent to a fish and game warden grabbing a shoplifter while at the mall. It's allowed and legal, but not normal.


Moreover the accused is being treated as guilty despite the lack of any corroborating evidence. And in fact, despite that all evidence points to explicit innocence.

It's abnormal from the beginning, by the end it's pretty clearly abusive.

I think we should start investigating the rest of this DA's cases. To see if everyone she dealt with was railroaded. And if evidence was disregarded in their cases too.


California has specific laws about driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol. So the DA isn't exactly casting about looking for a charge there.

It's also their essential function to prosecute people they believe they can prove guilty. It would be bizarre for a DA to be talking about prosecuting someone they didn't believe to be guilty.


After hearing about many people wrongfully convicted of crimes, I think some DAs are inclined to prosecute if they believe they can win the trial (rather than if they absolutely believe the person is guilty). It doesn't necessarily matter if the case is strong or weak or if there are other plausible alternative explanations for the circumstances. DAs advance their careers by winning cases and locking people up, not by arresting people and then dropping charges. The incentives can encourage DAs to prosecute an iffy case they think they can win even if they are not totally convinced that the person is guilty.


Maybe. I think even most aggressive DAs are simply embedded in a culture that really does believe that they are going after guilty people.

(It's important to consider this possibility because then the fix has to be to the system, not just to try to find different people)


> she's insinuating his guilt in the court of public opinion.

She is doing no such thing. She's just saying that without a positive drug test, she has no ground to prosecute. That's an awfully big step.

> My opinion is that the DA really wanted to prosecute the DUI charge ("he had to be under the influence of something!")

Agreed. Although they did take two blood tests, and sent them out for screening. The penalties for DUI are exponentially worse than the penalties for reckless driving, and it looks better for the DA and all prosecution parties involved if they can get a DUI instead of a lesser charge.


  She is doing no such thing. She's just saying that 
  without a positive drug test, she has no ground to 
  prosecute. That's an awfully big step.
It's a really nebulous statement: "Without a confirmatory test of the specific drug in the defendant’s system that impaired his ability to drive..." This can be interpreted two different, but equally semantically valid ways. The pessimist in me thinks this "double-speak" is intentional.

Your interpretation is: "We don't have a test that shows the presence of any drug that impairs the defendant's ability to drive."

My alternate (but semantically valid) read was: "There was a drug in the defendant's system, we just don't know which one because nothing we tried tested positive."

Combine that with the valid but underhanded: "... prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt". Again: "We don't have a case" vs. "this guy is guilty but we just can't prove it legally".

The direct, unequivocal re-write would be: "We do not have a confirmatory test of any drug in the defendant's system that would impair his ability to drive. As such, we do not believe there is a valid case on this charge."


Nor any evidence whatsoever that there was intoxication.

The DA should be saying "There's no evidence of that", not "There isn't enough to prosecute". She's lying by implying that there's a body of evidence that is just not quite sufficient to convict, as opposed to the FACT that all evidence points to not-guilty. Not insufficient, but directly contradicting the charges.


> The DA should be saying "There's no evidence of that"

They're also prosecuting him for reckless driving. Reckless driving witnessed by an officer is also (some) evidence of driving while impaired.

> FACT that all evidence points to not-guilty. Not insufficient, but directly contradicting the charges.

You can be impaired while on legal substances that don't show up on drug tests. The officer's testimony makes the DA's statement perfectly valid. And the evidence aside from the chemical test tends to bolster the state's case.


> You can be impaired while on legal substances that don't show up on drug tests.

Right, but they aren't just a lack of evidence for coked-up-driving, they're actually evidence FOR clean driving.

> They're also prosecuting him for reckless driving.

Well, they're using the reckless driving charge as a license to fish, falling back to it only when they've exhausted other avenues.

> "Without a confirmatory test of the specific drug in the defendant’s system that impaired his ability to drive, we do not believe we can prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt,”

The DA is taking for granted that he was on something and is blaming the tests for failing to show that, not using that as evidence that she might be mistaken.

They go on to say "not believe we can prove the charge beyond" when they should be saying "believe there is no evidence whatsoever for this charge."

The tone of the article is that this man is guilty and the system is simply unable to prove it.


> Right, but they aren't just a lack of evidence for coked-up-driving, they're actually evidence FOR clean driving.

You stated that there was no evidence for impaired driving. Based on reported observed behavior it was.

> Well, they're using the reckless driving charge as a license to fish, falling back to it only when they've exhausted other avenues.

That's a huge assumption to make. What are they "fishing" for? They already have an officer making a statement that he was driving erratically. That's pretty much him dead to rights.

> they should be saying "believe there is no evidence whatsoever for this charge."

There is no chemical test evidence. There is plenty of behavioural evidence, evidence that warrants a reckless driving test.

> system is simply unable to prove it.

The system is very able to "prove" that he was driving poorly and he will be punished accordingly.


> There is no chemical test evidence. There is plenty of behavioural evidence, evidence that warrants a reckless driving test.

The only 'evidence' is the uncorroborated word of an officer. Yes, that counts, but no it's not evidence in any way. And more and more we're having officer testimony proved to be a lie on the evening news.

> That's a huge assumption to make. What are they "fishing" for?

Charges that will stick. The same as when they say they see erratic driving and demand to search your car. Something that will justify the cop-rage that resulted in the guy being pulled over.

> There is no chemical test evidence.

Oh no, in fact there's plenty of test evidence that he wasn't intoxicated. And all else being equal, a citizen who had a clean test is less likely to have been driving erratically than one who hasn't.

It's a logic error to assign weight to the accusation in absence of any positive evidence, and then use that weight to suggest that the negative evidence now doesn't apply.

> The system is very able to "prove" that he was driving poorly and he will be punished accordingly.

The system is able to punish him despite the lack of evidence. The word prove doesn't apply in any way. And in fact in proper terminology the system merely "finds" him guilty, it doesn't claim to prove guilt.


> Yes, that counts, but no it's not evidence in any way.

So it counts as evidence, but it's not really evidence? The word of an officer holds weight in court. Heck, the word of any eyewitness is evidence.

> Something that will justify the cop-rage

Instead of projecting feelings on the officer, how about the driver was driving so erratically that the officer felt as though the lives of bystanders were in danger?

> Oh no, in fact there's plenty of test evidence that he wasn't intoxicated.

No. There is no test you can take to prove that you weren't intoxicated. He was not intoxicated on any of the substances he was tested on.

> It's a logic error to assign weight to the accusation in absence of any positive evidence

The evidence in this case the the observation of the witness, an officer, which is evidence whether you see it that way or not. We're not talking about chemical tests here.

> The system is able to punish him despite the lack of evidence.

It seems like you're saying the word of an officer is somehow less than the word of a non-officer. If anybody gives eyewitness testimony to erratic driving, that's evidence. I don't see why you're talking around that.


> So it counts as evidence, but it's not really evidence?

No amount of eye-witnesses to recklessness amount to proof of intoxication. Let alone one uncorroborated, counter-factual, claim.

> Instead of projecting feelings on the officer,

If there was credible evidence of recklessness they'd have charged him with it. The fishing expedition is because the pretext is barely credible. It's possible that the officer alone witnessed this behavior, and there also isn't any corroborating evidence, but it's more likely just a false allegation.

How handy that an off-duty officer, whose camera wasn't running, noticed him instead of the myriad of on-duty officers on the same road.

> how about the driver was driving so erratically that the officer felt as though the lives of bystanders were in danger?

Right, and in other news the officer felt their life was in danger so they shot the person. We've seen how these are lies so I don't know why you would give the police witness any more credibility than anyone else's, which is to say essentially zero. But yes, it's not physically impossible just improbable.

> No. There is no test you can take to prove that you weren't intoxicated. He was not intoxicated on any of the substances he was tested on.

Right, but wrong. He was selected without knowledge of his state of intoxication, but because of suspicion, and with no prior association with the officer or other reason for being picked. If he's clean of all tested substances (which are of course the primary intoxicants which is why we test for them) he's likelier than a control person to actually be clean for all tested substances.

We've established that he's not in the group of drinkers, tokers, snorters, etc. He may be in the group of obscure tweakers on drug X that we can't detect, but he's much more likely just clean.

> The evidence in this case the the observation of the witness, an officer, which is evidence whether you see it that way or not. We're not talking about chemical tests here.

Right. But we gave the chemical tests weight, had they been positive he'd have been convicted on that evidence, because of the officer's testimony. He must have been on something... And now we dismiss the tests similarly because they contradict the officer's testimony. He must have been on something the tests don't catch... The test is being given undue weight based on its ability to prove or contest the officer's story.

For rigor, the test and the weight placed on it must be part of the proposition, not the conclusion. If the tests could provide evidence to convict for intoxication they must also provide substantial evidence of non-intoxication. (In randomly selected individuals. We could stack the deck by supplying just Drug X users, but he wasn't selected from a population likely to be high in Drug X usage.)

> It seems like you're saying the word of an officer is somehow less than the word of a non-officer.

Yes, absolutely. As long as an officer's word is given extra weight in court, I as a citizen and a logician must discount it and all evidence based on it proportionally.

> If anybody gives eyewitness testimony to erratic driving, that's evidence.

Some evidentiary weight, yes. Enough to get someone breathalyzed, maybe, but not enough for the charges to stick despite that. This example has the eyewitness testimony being proof enough for the DA who laments the failure of the tests, instead of recognizing the proper findings from them.

> I don't see why you're talking around that.

I'm not trying to talk around it, I'm addressing it directly.

Police testimony has an incredibly low bar and we've seen 1) a tremendous number of lies that contradict recorded fact, and 2) an almost total cover-up and complete defense of lying officers. It's an ad-hominem to say that someone is a liar and therefore dismiss their conclusion, but it's perfectly reasonable to say they're a known liar so it's likely they're lying, and discount appropriately.


Could be a leverage thing, prosecutors do that a lot, they hold up a really high but impossible to prove charge to try and get you to plead guilty to a lower and difficult to prove charge. The DUI charge might have just been a strategic play to get him to plead to careless driving. Not happy to see people's lives used as strategic plays like this, but unfortunately the egos of lawyers can play a huge role in the court system.


there's always a story, behind the story...


DA can't look bad, heaven forbid they admit they made a mistake and overreached. That would be unheard of, better to try them for some other smaller crime so they can continue to insist they are keeping bad people off the street and their conviction % doesn't take a hit.


> He was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Solano County, but investigators found no alcohol or drugs in his system. Fairfield resident Joseph Schwab, 36 did test positive for one substance: caffeine.

Such a strange insistence in journalism to use obtuse, inconsistent, useless definitions for the word "drug", often that change within the same article.

Anyway, at the end of the day, if the dude was driving recklessly, which the LEO says he was, then charge him with that. This is a great example of why it doesn't make sense to attach criminal liability to blood/brain chemistry.


Because unless you're being a pedant, any reasonable person with a decent reading level would understand the context of "drugs and alcohol" to mean impairing drugs, not caffeine and tylenol


"...The agent said Schwab had cut her off... The charge of driving under the influence is not based upon the presence of caffeine in his system," she added."

You sure as hell got that right...


Sounds like a case of road rage by an "agent" who abused her position.


This is borderline "fake news". The driver was arrested for suspicion of being under the influence of a drug, yet the tests did not find any drugs. The defense seems to be claiming "he was arrested for caffeine" yet it has nothing to about caffeine.

The DUI charges were dropped subsequently because they had no proof of drugs. The article is sensational, trying to imply that one can get arrested for caffeine use.


I don't think it was fake news at the time it was published. The article was published on Dec. 24, and charges were only dropped several days later.

Reference: http://abc7news.com/news/solano-county-da-drops-dui-for-caff...


The news here isn't that the justice system in California has corruption problems and an "us against them" mentality. It's that they're not even ashamed to let the world see that.


I can't believe the caffeine charge even got that far.


There was never a caffeine charge.

The prosecution believed (and maintains) that he was under the influence of some other, unknown drug.

This is the reason that an impairment standard, rather than a chemical standard, makes more sense for criminal liability.

If someone's driving ability to impaired such that they are, say 70% more likely to cause an injurious or fatal accident, what does it matter whether it's because they were on Drug A or Drug B or talking on their phone?


> This is the reason that an impairment standard, rather than a chemical standard, makes more sense for criminal liability.

Impairment standards are far too subjective given the stakes. How exactly are you supposed to completely objectively measure "70% impairment"? You need a baseline, and the baseline driving ability of a person varies radically based upon time of day, emotional state, etc.

Impairment standards also lack any mechanism for differentiating between actors who know and don't know they're behaving recklessly. A cop friend of mine gave me a roadside sobriety test after a week-long period of intense work and very little sleep; I failed miserably. Now, should I have been driving? No. (And I wasn't!) But should "driving while tired" be treated the same way as "driving while piss drunk"? I'd argue not. Now, what about "got a cell phone call telling you that your parents just died, and you think you're OK, but you're not"? Jail time again?

Or, consider this case, which IMO amounts to "cut off the wrong person".

If this were a $20 ticket, I might be more sympathetic to your viewpoint. But the penalties baked into DWI laws are usually significant. We shouldn't be throwing people in jail because they were a little off-balance and jittery when pulled over on their way home from work. And especially not because they were perfectly fine but pissed off the wrong person who then lied about the results of an entirely subjective test.


These symptomatic laws shouldn't exist. Car headlights used to be mandated by watts instead of light output. The result was HID headlights that melted the retinas of oncoming drivers. Stupid laws make people stupid.


That makes sense, but is there a way to quantify that? I've always had the notion that something like a roadside sobriety test is rather subjective. I know that if I were in the situation of being suspected of a DUI (which I hope I never am), I would want a clear, quantifiable test, with a low margin of error.


You can refuse to submit to the test, get arrested, and then do breathalyzer at the station. Police also have a portable breathalyzer you could submit to roadside.

I have an eye condition that makes the gaze test, in my opinion, unreliable and the two times I've been pulled over after drinking, the police noted this prior to my doing the test. In both instances I did fine in the one-leg test and the walk-a-line test (at least I assume I did fine). To avoid inconvenience, I did decide to allow the portable breathalyzer one of those times and I think the reading came up 0.0015. I knew I wasn't seriously impaired or over the legal limit and had only had 2 or 3 beers over a 3 or 4 hour period. If you're not sure if you're over the legal limit or not, I wouldn't submit to the roadside breathalyzer (obviously though you shouldn't be driving if you're not sure or think you're impaired).


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. This is Internet-tough-guy advice, and you probably shouldn't follow it. It serves mainly as a thought experiment for people who generally don't get pulled over by cops.

Don't refuse the test. Refuse to submit to searches, seizures, or interrogations without the assistance of legal counsel instead. Then sit down and shut up. You will be arrested, and taken to the cop shop, but you will be more likely to prevail in court after you get your administrative punishment at the police station.

There are no objective standards for passing a field sobriety test. They exist solely to give officers plausible justification for whatever they decide to do next. If they give you one, they probably haven't yet decided whether to arrest you. In that case, if you do well enough, you will probably be free to go. If they have already decided to arrest you, you could juggle flaming chainsaws on a unicycle and still fail the test.

Once the cops even hint that they may be building a DUI case against you, stop helping them do it!


Be careful. Depending on where you live, refusing the breathalyzer or roadside test results in a mandatory 1 year license suspension regardless of what comes up in the test at the police station. Arizona here.


Interesting! Can you at least opt to go straight for the breathalyzer?

If you've not been drinking, it seems a bit of a waste of time to have to stand on one leg (etc.), when you could just use the breathalyzer and have the question answered straight away.


It's dependent on the officer. In Ohio, you can be charged with a DUI automatically if you refuse the breathalyzer. I'm not certain if this extends to the roadside test. My original comment was more that you might be able to refuse the roadside test, get arrested, and then agree to take the breathalyzer at the police station so you'd have stronger evidence.

The roadside tests are only accurate to a certain degree, whereas a properly calibrated breathalyzer provides much stronger evidence.


> There was never a caffeine charge.

Also, the defendent's attorney has an excellent response to this claim in the article:

"Barrett counters that if the prosecution has evidence of a different drug in her client’s system, it should have to provided that to her, based on the rules governing criminal procedings."

Basically, "either you're charging my client for caffeine, or else you're charging my client without anything even close to resembling a reasonable evidentiary basis, or else you're not following the rules governing criminal proceedings. In each of those cases, the charges should be thrown out."


DUI requires evidence that a person is impaired by a drug. A person who is not under the influence of a drug, but is tired, emotionally distressed, distracted or otherwise unable to safely drive a car due to factors other than the use of a drug is not guilty of DUI.

There are other charges applicable to that situation, namely reckless driving, and in some states a lesser offense of careless driving. Schawb was additionally charged with reckless driving, a charge that does fit his alleged conduct.


> what does it matter whether it's because they were on Drug A or Drug B or talking on their phone?

It matters if he is charged with an applicable law, and if that applicable law makes any sense

I think we are arguing that he wasn't charged with an applicable law, no matter if 20 other crimes were committed, the state messed up its case.


In Texas, they are allowed to give you a DUI even of you pass all sobriety tests; they leave it up to the officer to determine intoxication even if there is none present. Another fun fact in Texas: you don't have to be driving to get a DUI; they can nick you for intent OR they can determine that you are in "control", which could mean sleeping in your truck bed with your keys in your pocket.


People understandably get hung up on the social/legal status of caffeine, but I think there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the notion of a DUI charge for it. In several important ways it acts like a milder form of cocaine or amphetamine, and with high enough doses it can cause similar behavioral problems ("tweaking", paranoia, mania, even psychosis).


I'd be more worried about people using caffeine to mask sleepiness, which is a severe problem for driving.

But if they think he was driving tired they should have charged him with that.


I feel like you'd have to drink a lot of coffee...


In a small segment of the population, a few cups of coffee may be enough to cause mild forms of the mentioned symptoms. But this is more of a genetic anomaly / over-sensitivity.

In an "average" adult, it would require a lot of caffeine to trigger these symptoms -- dozens of cups over a very short period of time. Caffeine pills or powder would be a far more likely explanation. And yeah, driving after popping a significant number of caffeine pills is probably as dangerous as driving after ingesting a small dose of cocaine. TBF if the caffeine concentrations were such that this were a likely explanation, I bet we'd be hearing about it.


When my tolerance is low it doesn't take much to make me twitchy and impair my thinking.


> twitchy and impair my thinking

I'm not sure how dangerous those symptoms are in the context of driving. Someone should do a study.

I was referring to these symptoms, which are unarguably dangerous in the context of driving: "tweaking", paranoia, mania, even psychosis.


At one point, I got a large coffee, about 20oz, from a shop in San Marcos, TX. After finishing it over 15 or 20 minutes, I found myself with a full on stimulant overdose: dizziness, sweating, confusion, irritability, shaking... It took me a couple of hours before I would have felt safe driving.

I am a caffeine addict, at about a pot per day at the time of this story.


I'd argue you probably couldn't consume the necessary volume of coffee to get that kind of dosage. You'd probably need to take caffeine pills.


You're actually trying to compare coffee to amphetamines? Did you even read your own post?


>California vehicle code defines a “drug” as any substance besides alcohol that could affect a person in a manner that would “impair, to an appreciable degree” his ability to drive normally.

There's your problem. When you have vaguely defined laws, you have a system that can criminalize even the most ordinary and innocent behaviors.


Totally agree. Sadly, however, it's not a bug, it's a feature of the legal system in the US. When the target is everyone and their everyday activities, such vague laws serve that purpose extremely well.


There is a high probability of finding H2O in his blood as well, if they found C8H10N4O2.


100% of criminals were caught under the influence of the dangerous chemical dihydrogen monoxide.





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