If you are driving in Texas while illegally intoxicated by alcohol or are considered impaired due to the influence of any substance, you can be charged with a DWI or driving while intoxicated. To qualify as one driving intoxicated, your BAC (blood or breath alcohol concentration) needs to be at .08 or higher. It is illegal in Texas to operate a motorized vehicle with this level of alcohol in your system, but you also cannot run a motorized vehicle while you are impaired from drugs. This impaired state is considered DWI Drugs and is a crime for which you can be arrested.
Texas does not make any consideration for which drugs are impairing your abilities. Any drug whether prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) or an illegal substance are considered a crime to consume and then drive a vehicle if they cause impairment to your mental status. If you have been arrested in Texas for operating a vehicle while under the influence of any of these drugs, contact us at Andrew Deegan DWI Attorney at Law. You need legal counsel to protect your rights and your future.
Common Drugs People are Arrested for DWI Drugs
There are a lot of arrests for people on DWI drugs who have not consumed an illegal substance. Many people do not understand the implications of driving a vehicle while impaired when they have taken a medication prescribed by their physician or bought over-the-counter at the local pharmacy.
These are some common drugs that people have been arrested for with DWI drugs for:
- Ambien- This drug is used to treat sleep difficulties for adults. It will help a person fall asleep easier as it promises to give one a better night’s sleep. Ambien is part of the sedative-hypnotic class of drugs. The side effects of this medication are making you feel sleepy all day. It can also cause memory loss, behavior changes, depression, agitation, aggressive behavior, and several others. Rarely, but people have actually gotten behind the wheel while under this drug's influence and driven a vehicle while not fully awake.
- Xanax- This medication is used to treat anxiety disorders and panic. It is classified as a drug which acts on the brain and nerves to calm a person. It enhances the effects of certain chemicals found naturally in your body. The side effects for this drug include dizziness, drowsiness, saliva production, and changes in your sex abilities or drive.
- Vicodin- Vicodin is a pain killer used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It does contain an opioid which is considered a narcotic and hydrocodone which is non-opioid pain relief. This medication will work on your brain, so you do not feel or respond to pain. Side effects associated with taking this drug is constipation, lightheadedness, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting.
- Alprazolam- This drug is used to treat panic disorders and anxiety. It is the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines as it acts with your brain and central nervous system to calm you. It will enhance a certain natural chemical found in your body. Alprazolam’s side effects include; dizziness, drowsiness, increased saliva and changes in your sex ability or drive.
- Soma- Soma is used in treating muscle discomfort or pain. When prescribed, your physician will also advise you to get more rest, physical therapy, and other treatments to help relax your muscles. Taking this drug can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches.
These drugs and others such as Tylenol-PM, cough or cold medicines and even some allergy medications can get you arrested in Texas for DWI drugs. These charges are not to be taken lightly, and you should seek legal representation as the punishment and severity if convicted of these charges as they are equal to being convicted of driving while intoxicated. The drugs you are under the influence of do not have to be controlled or illegal substances. Any drug that impairs your mental capacity will have you facing DWI drugs charges.
Prescriptions from Your Doctor
Texas law says you cannot operate a vehicle if your mental or physical faculties are compromised by over-consumption of alcohol or the use of a controlled substance, dangerous drugs, or any two or more of these substances as you can then be arrested for DWI or DWI drugs.
You can be charged with a DWI drug under this law even if you have never had one drink of alcohol. It does not mean you can be charged anytime you take a medication and get behind the wheel; the difference is whether or not the drug has impaired your mental or physical capabilities. Any drug that has side effects of dizziness, sleepiness, or drowsiness would reduce your abilities past what would be safe for you to be driving under.
Texas law does not allow the use of drugs even with a valid prescription from your doctor if this drug causes side effects that will impair your physical or mental capabilities. It is vital all side effects, and labels are read when taking any form of medicine to distinguish which ones will make you legally impaired before getting behind the wheel.
How Can I be Arrested for DWI Drugs?
The gray area in Texas law is that police officers often cannot distinguish whether you are suffering from a medical condition or impairment due to a medication you’ve taken. There is a difference between treating a medical condition and a therapeutic dosage level, and the police do not have the professional or educational training to determine the difference.
The tool used by police is called a 12-step drug recognition expert protocol or D.R.E. which was designed by the police, not a scientist or medical doctor. It has demonstrated to be unreliable and has been the tool used in many false arrests; in fact, more than half the time it is used, the arrest is declared as invalid. There are no magic numbers for what concentration amount of drugs can be in your system like there is for alcohol, as drugs affect people differently than alcohol does. The scientific community is not able to determine what can be considered unsafe levels of all drugs since the effects are individually different.
The police use the label on the side of a prescription bottle that was prescribed by your physician, along with an explanation of what expected side effects are for the drug in their determination whether or not you should be driving while taking the medication. Many of the side effects will be listed as causing dizziness or drowsiness which would impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle. There may even be warning labels attached to the drug which state in writing that you should operate machinery or drive while taking medicine. This warning would give an officer cause to arrest you with DWI drugs.
It may difficult for an officer to determine if your actions are a result of taking medicine. It is their call if they feel your driving ability is impaired and if they have proof you’ve taken a medication whether over-the-counter or prescription will not make a difference, you will still be at risk for an arrest for DWI drugs.
Texas Statute and Prescription Medicine
Texas law defines ‘intoxicated’ as being in a condition where you do not have what falls within the range of normal use of your physical or mental faculties. This condition has been determined to be a result of the consumption of controlled substances, alcohol, a dangerous drug or other substance which impairs your capabilities. Even if you are taking a legal drug which has been prescribed by your physician to treat an illness or other health issues, if an officer feels you are driving ‘intoxicated,’ they can arrest you for DWI drugs.
The police have sole discretion to question you and request a sobriety test to determine your ability to operate a vehicle. If arrested for DWI drugs, you are facing the same consequences as if you were arrested for driving while intoxicated. A first time DWI drug charge falls under the law as a Class B misdemeanor. A second time DWI drug charge will fall under the law as Class A misdemeanor. If you have more than two charges, any that follow will expose you to felony charges.
- Class B Misdemeanor- Under Texas law a conviction of a Class B misdemeanor means your penalty could be up to 180 days in county jail along with a fine up to $2,000.
- Class A Misdemeanor- Under Texas law if you are convicted on a Class A misdemeanor, you will face up one year in county jail along with a possible fine up to $4,000.
- Felony- Under Texas law, if you are convicted with a felony, your sentence carries a mandatory prison stay of two years with a possible ten years for a maximum.
DWI Drugs- Marijuana
A DWI is typically associated with driving while intoxicated, and now it is becoming common to be arrested with DWI drugs for the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications. If you are stopped and found to be driving under the influence of marijuana, you can be arrested. Being under the influence of marijuana means you are driving stoned, or high and can be prosecuted in Texas.
Under Texas Penal Code 49.01, the term intoxicated means you are driving without your normal physical or mental capabilities. Marijuana has the power to affect these capabilities and you are considered ‘intoxicated’ while under its influence. If there is the presence of marijuana in your system, you can be charged and possibly convicted with DWI drugs under Penal Code 49.04 which means you were intoxicated while driving a motor vehicle in public.
Traces of cannabis and metabolites can stay in your system for four to six weeks after you’ve consumed it, without affecting your mental capabilities. This trace is bad for you if you’ve been pulled over and the officer suspects drug usage and requests a blood test for drugs. Even if you are not impaired, this test can be used for the officer to arrest and charge you with DWI drugs.
The State of Texas does not recognize the use of medical marijuana so under Penal Code 49.10 you could be arrested and charged for the use of a substance. This arrest for DWI marijuana would occur even if you recently consumed cannabis through a medical prescription received from another state.
The State of Texas is an implied consent state, so if you drive on roads in Texas, you consent to have your blood or breath tested for marijuana. The implied consent is also in regards to alcohol and other drugs and governed by Texas Transportation Code 724.11. If you refuse the test, it cannot be taken against your will but will be noted as evidence in court. You can lose your administrative license under Texas Transportation Code 724.035 for refusing the test.
If you are convicted in Texas with a Marijuana DWI, you are facing serious penalties. The severity of the sentence will depend on the number of convictions on your criminal record:
- Under Texas law, the first offense for Marijuana DWI is a Class B misdemeanor with sentencing from 72 to 180 days in jail. You will also receive a fine up to $2,000 that includes a three-year surcharge from $1,500 to $2,000 a year. Your driver’s license is suspended up to one year, and you will be required to perform 24-100 hours doing community service.
- The second conviction under Texas law for Marijuana DWI is a Class A misdemeanor with a two to ten-year jail sentence along with a fine of up to one year. You will also face a penalty of up to $4,000 with a three-year surcharge of $1,500 to $2,000 and suspension of your driver’s license from 180 days to 2 years. This conviction will also include 80-200 hours of community service.
- As a third conviction for Marijuana DWI in Texas, you will be charged with a third-degree felony. This conviction means you are facing a two to ten-year jail sentence with up to $10,000 in fines along with a three-year surcharge of $1,500 to $2,000 a year. You also face suspension of your license from 180 days to two years and will be required to perform 160-600 hours of community service.
Because marijuana use is not legal in the State of Texas, you may face additional charges of marijuana possession on top of your DWI drug charge which will add to your penalties.
Texas Proof in DWI Drug Arrests
For the most part, an officer only has to know you are taking a prescription or over-the-counter drug to charge you with DWI drugs. There are; however, several factors they take into consideration when arresting and charging you:
- Why they pulled you over, whether you simply forgot to signal a lane change or turn, or if you were swerving dangerously. Depending on the severity of the stop by the officer, they may or may not charge you with DWI drugs.
- What information you provide at the time of the stop. The officer will take any info you give subsequently or freely during their questioning at the time of a stop whether to charge and arrest you for DWI drugs.
- If you freely admit to taking drugs that at ‘flagged’ as dangerous to take while driving a motorized vehicle such as Ambien, Valium, Vicodin, or Xanex the officer will want to know when you took it and how much was taken when they decide whether or not to arrest and charge you for DWI drugs.
- The officer will also be on the alert for your behavior during the stop. They will watch for signs of drowsiness and alertness. They will also look for suitable or rude behaviors that may be indicators you are under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.
You will more than likely be required to provide a blood sample if the officer feels indicators are warranting an arrest for DWI drugs. If you refuse to give them a blood sample, you could face additional penalties including having your license suspended. Refusal to provide a blood sample means the police can request a warrant, and when granted, you do not have a choice of giving a sample or not, they can even restrain you while obtaining the sample.
The prosecution will have to prove you did not have full use of your physical or mental faculties. This impairment will have to be shown as a result of your intoxication from prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs. Since there is no set minimum level of intoxication in DWI drugs, the prosecution will have to show through evidence you were, in fact, impaired and were causing dangerous conditions being behind the wheel.
Need of Medicine vs. a Need to Drive
The use of prescription medicines is increasing across the country. People need to take drugs to help relieve pain or combat illness and still need to drive. The risk of impaired drivers on the roads due to this increase in medicine consumption is the highest it’s been in history. It is important for you to know how to take the medications you need and still be able to operate a vehicle safely. Use these steps, so you are able to use the medicines necessary for your health, and still create a safe environment for your passengers and other motorists:
- Speak with your doctor or the pharmacist about the side effects for the medication you’ve been prescribed to take. You cannot get behind the wheel unless you understand the side effects of your medicines.
- Make sure you are taking the appropriate dosage of any medication. Never take more than the label says you should within the prescribed time frame.
- When you get a new prescription, make sure your physician knows all other medicines you are taking, including the over-the-counter ones you use regularly. Make sure there will be no interactions between what you always take and the new ones you are going to start.
- Begin any new prescription or medicine while you are at home and do not have any plans to drive. See how your body interacts with the new drug to know what your side effects may include.
- Talk with your pharmacist or physician to see if you can change the times the medication should be taken. It may be possible to take it after you’ve driven to school or work for the day and not have to influence your driving.
The Defense for DWI Drugs
You will not be able to use a defense stating your doctor prescribed the medication you were taking at the time of an arrest. One line of defense; however, is not to disclose to the officer at the time of your traffic stop that you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medications as a means of trying to explain your driving. If you do not disclose the information and the officer asks you to take a breathalyzer test, you will pass as long as you haven’t drunk alcohol.
If you do disclose the information and end up arrested and charged, your defense will have to be that the effects of the medicine do not impair your ability to drive. Different people react differently to drugs, and your defense will be to demonstrate you do not react to the drug in a manner that makes you dangerous while driving.
If you are arrested and being charged with DWI drugs, contact a DWI attorney to help strategize your defense. You will need someone on your side that understands the state laws defining DWI drugs and how the prosecution will move forward to convict you. You need someone who knows their way around the laws and courts to create a successful defense for you.
Where Do I Find a DWI Drugs Attorney Near Me?
Being charged with DWI drugs means you need legal representation to protect your future and your rights. Call 817-470-2128 Andrew Deegan DWI Attorney at Law to receive expert advice on how to proceed through the complex legal system attached to this serious charge. The prosecution will work hard to convict you on these charges, and you need someone on your side fighting hard to protect you.