A Northern California man is going through a nightmare as he is being charged with DUI for having only caffeine in his system. They’ve tested his blood multiple times and the only substance that they can find is caffeine. The State is aware of this and has insisted that they intend to continue their prosecution.
While most people are scratching their heads and attributing this to an isolated incident of abuse of power in California, my office is wondering how long before we see something similar here. Because if you think that this could only happen in California guess again. Arizona’s zero tolerance DUI laws give broad discretion to Prosecutors on how and when to prosecute. ARS 28-1381 (A1), allows for prosecution of someone for DUI if they have anything in their system that “impairs them to slightest degree”. Here’s the kicker- no one knows what “impaired to slightest degree” means.
Since alcohol related DUI’s have been dropping, my office has seen a flood of DUI drug prosecutions for people taking their lawfully prescribed medication. Having a prescription doesn’t allow people a defense to Arizona’s zero tolerance DUI law. In fact, the median age of new clients in one week in March of 2016 was 72 years old. There appears to be a concerted effort on the part of law enforcement agencies to maintain their current DUI revenues despite good public policy seeing dramatic drops in DUI offenses being committed. My concern is that it is only a matter of time before we start seeing caffeine DUI prosecutions here in Arizona.