February 7, 2015

DUI after Drinking Vanilla Extract

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A New York woman has been arrested for drunk driving after drinking, wait for it, vanilla extract!

Carolyn Kesel, 46, of Seneca Falls, New York, was driving erratically in a Walmart parking lot on January 5th when she was pulled over. Kesel told police that she had gotten lost on her way home after drinking two bottles of vanilla extract.

Police said the extract had an alcohol content of 41 percent. This led to a blood alcohol content of 0.26 percent when she was later breathalyzed.

This is new to me, but apparently pure extracts commonly used in baking can have alcohol contents as high as 89 percent. Imitation extracts can have alcohol contents as high as 17 percent.

Although the extract in Kesel’s case did, in fact, contain alcohol causing a high BAC, a person need not consume alcohol to be charged with a DUI. In California, a person can be charged with a DUI if their “physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that [they] no longer have the ability to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.”

Therefore, even if the extract had not contained any alcohol, which before today I didn’t think it did, she could still be charged with a DUI if she could not drive as a reasonable, sober person would.


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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