Can your coffee addiction lead to a DUI charge? What about those energy drinks that you relied on to get you through a rough day at work? The short answer is,"Yes." In fact, any over-the-counter drug can lead to a DUI charge, and that includes caffeine. Here's what you should know.
Caffeine Really Is A Drug
Most people aren't really conscious of the fact that caffeine is a drug. Any non-food that's designed to affect the function of the body is considered a drug and caffeine certainly fits that description. In fact, the primary reason that most people consume caffeine is exactly because it alters the function of the body (and brain).
Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that increases your mental alertness and heart rate, constricts blood vessels and relaxes air passages. Anyone who's ever tried to abruptly quit drinking coffee can tell you that caffeine is also addicting - you can develop painful headaches and serious fatigue as part of withdrawal symptoms.
Generally speaking, caffeine is a relatively benign drug. Most healthy adults can consume about 4 cups of coffee or 2 energy drinks a day without any ill effects. However, make no mistake: it's still a drug.
How Can This Lead To A DUI?
The goal of DUI laws is to protect people from drivers who are chemically impaired to the point that their driving has become affected. It doesn't really matter what the chemical is that's caused the driver to become impaired - it's just that alcohol and illegal drugs tend to get the most attention (and be the most common culprits).
However, there is such a thing as caffeine intoxication. Caffeine intoxication can cause people to become restless, nervous, and overly excited or irritable. In some cases, it can also cause muscle spasms and hallucinations. Any of these things can certainly impair a driver's ability to control a motor vehicle or judgement.
Now, imagine that you've had too much coffee or too many energy shots and, as a result, you're feeling a little hyper or anxious. You're in a hurry and the caffeine is making you feel a little more stressed than normal, so you run a red light or slide through a stop sign. A police officer pulls you over and, somewhat casually, asks if you've been drinking. (Since caffeine can leave some people looking flushed, much like alcohol, you may even look like you've been drinking.)
You tell the officer, honestly, that you haven't been drinking, but you mention - somewhat sheepishly or even jokingly - that you're just stressed and probably had too much coffee today. Right then, without intending to, you've just admitted to being under the influence of a drug that's affected your ability to drive normally. Couple that with a failed field sobriety test and you could be facing serious problems in court!
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