If you look closely at many of the pill bottles in any given medicine cabinet, some of them contain warnings advising a use of caution when operating machinery or driving a vehicle. This is because many prescription drugs have the potential to impact your ability to be safely drive your vehicle without putting the public at risk.
As such, a question arises: Can you be charged for DWI in Texas because of the effects of your prescription drugs?
Prescription Drugs & Texas DWI Law
Texas law defines “intoxicated” as not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug or any substance into the body. It is clear, then, from the language, that prescription drugs fall within this definition. Also, it is clear that intoxication by alcohol has a set standard at which you’re automatically deemed impaired by law, which is .08% blood alcohol content.
One thing the law doesn’t make clear is how the determination of intoxication is made when the alleged intoxicant is a prescription drug.
How Is A Prescription Drug DWI Proven?
In Texas, there is no per se limit for drug intoxication.
To put another way, it is possible for a law enforcement officer to charge you for DWI merely with the knowledge that you have consumed a prescription drug. Obviously, the likelihood of being charged will vary greatly based on a number of factors. These include:
- The type of medication. Some medications send up an automatic red flag like vicodin, oxycontin, valium and other controlled substances;
- The underlying reason the law enforcement officer pulled you over for in the first place;
- Your conduct during the traffic stop; and
- The information you provide to the police during the traffic stop.
Based on these factors, the police officer may decide to charge you with DWI. If you are charged and the case comes to trial, the prosecutor will try to prove that you lacked your normal physical or mental faculties by reason of the intoxication caused by your prescription drugs.
Defending A Prescription Drug DWI
The first defense to this type of DWI is not a defense at all.
If you’re pulled over, you’re under no obligation to tell the police officer that you’re taking prescription medication. If they don’t know this and you agree to take a breath test (provided you haven’t also been drinking), they may have difficulty determining that you are intoxicated.
The second defense is an unanticipated reaction to the drug. Obviously, impairment is a known reaction to controlled substances. However, a steroid injection might cause a reaction that was entirely unanticipated. Some courts might be sympathetic to this argument.
Finally, if your conduct is within acceptable parameters, and you don’t give the officer reason to suspect your ingestion of medications, a possible defense might exist to challenge the probable cause the officer used to decide that you were impaired.
Americans Use of Medications on the Rise
As more and more of us take medications the risk of being in an innocent situation, that carries a strong possibility of being pulled over due to suspicion of DWI because of prescription drugs, increases.
It’s important to defend your rights every chance you get. For the best results after an arrest, seek consultation with a skilled and experienced DWI attorney. If you are arrested for suspicion of DWI, know that our Brazoria DWI-dedicated defense team has a number of criminal defense strategies for situations like this.
Facing DWI charges in Brazoria County because of prescription drugs? Contact The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at 979-267-6069.
Attorneys Tad Nelson & Amber Spurlock are ready to discuss your case.