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Caffeine Related DUI Charges and What Constitutes An “Intoxicating Substance” in Michigan

Dec 29th, 2016 DUI DUI Defense Caffeine Related DUI Charges and What Constitutes An “Intoxicating Substance” in Michigan

An attorney in California has been charged with DUI for allegedly driving under the influence of caffeine.  The officer who pulled the man over was working on alcohol enforcement when the driver pulled in front of him, cutting him off, and then driving erratically.  A roadside breath test showed no alcohol was present in the driver’s body.  18 months later, a blood test was produced only showing the presence of caffeine.  Apparently, a motion to dismiss was denied and the case set for trial.

While this case appears to be first of its kind, it’s not likely to be the last.  In California, like Michigan, it is unlawful to drive under the influence of any drug, including alcohol.  The term “drug” is very broadly defined, and therefore can include caffeine and even less “intoxicating” substances like ginseng.

This is because, as previously discussed, Michigan’s definition of drug includes even things listed in the homeopathic pharmacopoeia.  Specifically, Michigan’s drunk driving statute, MCL 257.625(25) indicates that an intoxicating substance means: any substance, preparation, or a combination of substances and preparations other than alcohol or a controlled substance, that is either of the following:

  1. Recognized as a drug in any of the following publications or their supplements:
  2. The official United States pharmacopoeia.
  3. The official homeopathic pharmacopoeia of the United States.
  4. The official national formulary.

Thus, you can be charged, and even convicted, of intoxicated driving in Michigan for being under the influence of not just alcohol and illegal drugs, but prescription drugs like Xanax and Ambien, and even things not commonly thought of as drugs, such as caffeine.

One of the reasons for this expansion of the definition of drug is that it increases the numbers of people that can be brought into the criminal justice system to pay fines and costs.  Without these fines and costs, there can be no new court houses, and judges may have to be retired.

Look for lower legal limits and more drugged driving arrests for even relatively benign drugs like caffeine, all of which is “necessary” to replace lost revenue due to the fact that drunk driving cases are down almost 40% in the last 10 years.