Have you been arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, or anywhere in Tarrant County on charges of DWID with the drug Xanax? Don’t assume that your case can’t be won because there is no DWI case that is not winnable. We at Andrew Deegan DWI Attorney At Law know how to build you a solid defense and win your case because we have done the same for numerous other clients before you.
Never think that a DWI drugs is somehow less of a concern than a DWI alcohol or that DWI with prescription drugs like Xanax isn’t a serious matter. The law will treat it very seriously, and your whole career and future could be at stake. Only by availing yourself of a top-tier DWI attorney can you navigate the complexity of the Texas DMV and (if necessary) court system and exit with the best possible outcome to your case.
Contact us today, or anytime 24/7 at 817-470-2128 for a free DWI consultation. We are located in Fort Worth, TX, so feel free to see us for an in-person consultation as well.
How Are DWI Drugs (DWID) Cases Handled In Texas?
In the state of Texas, a DWI (driving while intoxicated) can apply to intoxication with alcohol, drugs, or both. In the case of alcohol, there is a set standard of .08% BAC to determine if you are legally intoxicated, though other evidence of intoxication can also be used. With drugs, however, there is no set percentage that is used. It is simply a matter of two factors: you had the drug in your system while operating a motor vehicle and it was affecting your driving in a detrimental way.
The fact that your driving habits and physical appearance or condition must be used to determine whether a drug truly “intoxicated” you can make it more difficult for prosecutors to win DWID cases as opposed to DWI alcohol cases. The drug test merely confirms you were using the drug and does not in itself prove its presence in your body caused you to drive with less caution than a sober person would in the same situation.
If illegal drugs were used, then a separate charge of illegal drug possession and use could be filed, but it does not matter as far as the DWI is concerned. Whether it was an illegal drug, a prescription drug, or an over the counter medication, if it intoxicated you and inhibited your driving ability, it can be the basis of a DWID. And the penalties for DWID are the same as for DWI alcohol. Only the defense strategies differ at points due to the nature of the case.
How Does Xanax Affect Your Driving?
Xanax is the brand name for the drug alprazolam and is one of several commonly prescribed benzodiazepine medications that are meant to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Xanax is the most frequently prescribed psychiatric drug in the whole US. It helps you relax by boosting GABA levels in the brain and calming down the central nervous system.
But how can Xanax intoxicate you or affect you in such a way as to potentially impair your driving? For one thing, you should never drink any alcoholic beverages while on Xanax since this could cause a harmful, dangerous reaction, which could also cause both a DWI alcohol and DWI drugs if you get behind the wheel. Xanax actually increases the effects of alcohol on the body so that you would seem more intoxicated than you really were.
Secondly, an overdose could affect one in extreme ways. It could cause exhaustion and disorientation, which might be confused with intoxication with alcohol by police. It can also reduce your natural reflexes or even put you in a coma should you overdose on Xanax. Older adults on Xanax will generally experience more severe side effects, leading to sedation or loss of coordination.
You should never operate a motor vehicle if on Xanax until you, first of all, know how the drug will affect you. The severity and longevity of its effects can vary from person to person and may or may not affect driving. Xanax is, unfortunately, a much-abused prescription drug and can become addictive.
Finally, note that some side effects of Xanax, like slurred speech, trembling, fear, sweat, blurry vision, anxiety, nervousness, exhaustion via insomnia, memory loss, and drowsiness are similar enough to those of alcohol that police may not recognize the difference.
Now, just because Xanax can theoretically impair one’s driving doesn’t mean that it did. Police may arrest you simply because they find Xanax in your car or because you were tired or disoriented for other reasons besides anything caused by Xanax or any other drug. But it helps to understand why Xanax is sometimes the basis for a DWI being charged.
About DWIDs For Prescription Drugs
We have already seen that DWIs in Texas can be for either alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs. Xanax, Soma, Vicodin, and Ambien are the most common prescription drugs involved in alleged DWIDs in Texas. If you lack a valid prescription for Xanax, that’s a whole other charge that can be leveled, but having a valid prescription does nothing to defend you against DWID charges.
Key to the issue of DWID on prescription drugs is whether or not you were intoxicated with the drug at the time of driving the vehicle. Under Texas law, “intoxicated” means you no longer have the usual control over your faculties (both physical and mental) due to the effects of a chemical substance on your body. In other words, it won’t be sufficient for the prosecution to simply show you use Xanax, used it just before driving, and aren’t a perfect driver. They must show that the drug had such an effect on you as to be the cause, or at least a significant contributing cause, to alleged inability to drive the vehicle safely.
If your alertness level is reduced by a drug, or if it causes you to become dizzy, sleepy, or unable to focus on the road while driving, that would be impairment. Many drugs, including Xanax, can have such side effects as these if taken in sufficient dosages. But they do not automatically have these effects every time used, and their effects can vary based on the body chemistry of the user. These types of effects can even happen when using over the counter drugs like cold, cough, or allergy medicines; but when a drug says not to use it while driving, it may be more likely to cause a problem.
Possible Penalties For DWID Xanax
A DWID for prescription drugs like Xanax is punished the same way as any other DWI in Texas. Normally, this is a Class B misdemeanor crime for a first-time offense. It can be punished by anywhere from 3 to 180 days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
However, repeat offenses gradually see more and more severe penalties, with fine amounts and jail times rising. And if someone was injured or killed due to the DWID accident, you could be charged with a felony and get anywhere from 2 to 10 years in Texas state prison, with a fine as high as $10,000.
And of course, you will lose your driving privileges for anywhere from a few months to several years or more if convicted of DWI. Additional sentencing elements can include mandatory installation and use of an Ignition Interlock Device (IDD) at your own expense, mandatory attendance at a state-approved DWI School for months on end, many hours of community service, full restitution to any victims of the auto accident, impoundment of your car, and DWI probation.
Attorney Andrew Deegan has the skills it takes to help you avoid a costly conviction for DWI with Xanax, and in the event a complete victory is impossible, he knows how to negotiate a favorable plea deal to reduce your charge and/or sentence to the absolute minimum.
How Police Determine Prescription Drug Intoxication
As the presence of Xanax is not usually an issue in a DWI case (though it could be in some instances), the critical matter is the determination of “intoxication.” How do police and prosecutors seek to establish that the Xanax truly intoxicated you and impaired your driving ability as a result?
First of all, the arresting officer may have made a traffic stop based on the observance of your driving patterns. Erratic driving may be cited as the first bit of evidence. Next, your general physical appearance at the time, such as drowsiness, nervousness, trembling, or the smell of the drug coming out in your sweat might be cited. Third, the field sobriety tests will be used, though these are generally inconclusive (especially with DWIDs.)
If you pass the on-site breathalyzer test (if administered), and the officer still suspects you of being intoxicated, he or she will likely think it is drugs instead of alcohol that is the culprit. At this point, a drug specialist may be called in to test your blood for any traces of potentially intoxicating drugs. Or, the officer already on site may be able to handle the blood or urine test to that end.
If Xanax is discovered in your system, an approximation of how much was present and how recently you likely took it will be cited. However, these measurements are often much less accurate and reliable than alcohol BAC tests.
All of these factors will come into play. But in the final analysis, the prosecution is relying on the police report, testimony of the arresting officer, and the drug test results. There is room for error in all of these pieces of evidence, and a skillful DWID defense attorney can often shoot holes in the prosecution’s case.
Common DWID Defense Strategies
When first arrested and charged with DWID for Xanax, you may have felt like the situation was hopeless. But it would be a huge mistake to just give up. The fact is, we win cases like this for our clients on a routine basis.
We never use a “cookie cutter” approach but always build each and every defense “from scratch” based on the exact details of the case. However, there are clearly a number of basic “defense types” that come up again and again. Here are some of the most common and most effective defense strategies we use on a daily basis against DWID charges:
Impairment Not Measurable With DWID
Since there is no set standard, like .08 with DWI alcohol, used for DWIDs in Texas, the assessment of police and prosecutors of who was or was not intoxicated and impaired can be very subjective. Simply estimating the amount of Xanax in your system still does not tell how much that would have affected you since the drug’s impact varies from person to person.
The National Highway Safety Administration even admitted to Congress that current knowledge of how much a certain quantity of a drug will affect the risk of an auto accident is very limited. Police have no way to accurately measure impairment level with DWID as they do with DWI alcohol.
Unwarranted Traffic Stop / Arrest
If you were stopped by police without probable cause, then your Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Similarly, if you were arrested without probable cause or were the victim of an illegal search and seizure, this can end the prosecution’s case against you.
If your rights were violated in any way, such as not having your Miranda Rights read to you, being interrogated without being informed you were under arrest, or being physically abused by police, this can get your case dismissed in many cases. If evidence was gathered by illegal means, we can make a pretrial motion to have it excluded from consideration in court, which would likely make the prosecution’s case unwinnable so that they would drop it on the spot.
Note that courts tend to be rather deferential to police in regard to establishing probable cause. So if you drove erratically, swerved, or ran a stop sign, that would be enough. But the officer cannot detain you longer than the probable cause warrants, even then, unless new reasonable indications arise of intoxication - such as seeing physical signs of intoxication or hearing a slurred speech.
FSTs Can Be Failed Absent Intoxication
There is often a reasonable explanation for the failure of one or more field sobriety test besides that the test subject was intoxicated. There are many people who are 100% sober and yet fail FSTs for a variety of reasons. The common FSTs used in Texas can easily be failed due to tiredness, general lack of coordination, or nervousness due to the traffic stop.
The one-leg stand, for example, requires you stand on one foot for a full 30 seconds with the other foot 6 inches off the ground. You are not allowed to sway, hop, or even use your arms for balance. Let’s say you were standing on ground that wasn’t level, were wearing high heels, were out in inclement weather, or just don’t have good balance - you would fail the test. The walk and turn test can be failed for similar reasons, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test requires a good deal of concentration to pass.
Medical conditions, being overweight, lack of familiarity with how the test works, and a host of other factors can affect the outcome. It may have had nothing to do with intoxication. Plus, officers often fail to mention all the tests you passed and only bring up the ones you failed in court - with no mention of what the causes may have been of the failure other than a presumed intoxication.
Inaccuracy Of The Blood / Urine Test
Breath tests will not be of any value in proving intoxication with drugs like Xanax, but a blood and/or urine test will be administered. This test is often not nearly as accurate as would be an alcohol BAC blood or urine test and can do little more than determine whether at least some Xanax (and/or another drug) was in your system. And it’s even possible that that determination could be flawed.
Asking for an independent blood test on the extra blood sample the arresting officer was supposed to collect at the time of the arrest may end up conflicting with the original test results. If so, you could win your DWID defense case on that basis.
On the other hand, if the test was wrongly administered, contaminated, not properly stored, or not kept secure via the proper chain of custody, that can win your case. Additionally, there may have been a failure to properly calibrate the test equipment, to properly clean the equipment or even a failure to read it rightly. Human error is a very real danger with DWID test results.
Not Driving While Intoxicated
It is possible that you were indeed intoxicated but were not operating a motor vehicle at the time of your intoxication with Xanax. Maybe you needed to take your medicine, so you stopped the car in a parking lot or along the side of the road to take it and called a friend to come to pick you up. Or maybe you took Xanax sufficiently prior to driving that it would not have had a serious effect on your driving.
In some cases, a complaint may have been issued and a police officer may have gone to your home. Someone in the neighborhood may have complained about your driving, and you may have taken Xanax. But you may not have taken it until after arriving home and getting out of your car.
No Connection Between Xanax & Poor Driving
Poor driving skills may not seem like a good defense, but it can be. Let’s say you aren’t the most skilled or careful driver and you may have deserved a ticket for a traffic violation but not for DWI. It may even be true that a small amount of Xanax was still in your system from taking it hours earlier or that you keep extra Xanax with you in the car.
But that does not prove that intoxication with this drug was present, diminished your driving skills, or had anything to do with, perhaps, poor driving or moving violations you committed. Don’t be too proud to admit poor driving in such a case - it’s far better to get a ticket for running a red light or swerving over the centerline than to lose your license for DWID and maybe spend time in jail!
You Did NOT Refuse The Chemical Test
Refusing to take a chemical test in Texas is a violation of our state’s “implied consent” law, which says that if you use state highways you agree to submit to chemical tests for drugs or alcohol when administered by law enforcement officers based on probable cause, during a traffic stop.
To refuse the chemical test means to get a minimum license suspension of 180 days regardless of whether or not you are found guilty of DWID by the DMV and/or a Texas court. Also, refusing the chemical test can be used as evidence against you in court.
But there are many instances where an officer may accuse you of refusing the test when, in fact, you didn’t. Maybe you had a medical condition, failed to understand instructions in the heat of the moment, or tried your best to comply but failed.
Find A Top-tier DWID Attorney Near Me!
If you have been charged with a DWI, DWID, and in particular, a violation for use of a prescription drug like Xanax, you need expert legal assistance to win the best possible outcome to your case. Andrew Deegan is a skilled ACS Forensic Lawyer-Scientist with a long history of winning even the tough DWI cases in Fort Worth and all of Tarrant County.