While driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses are most commonly associated with people driving after consuming alcohol, the truth remains that a person can also be charged with DWI if they are believed to be under the influence of certain drugs. In some cases, an individual could be arrested for DWI when they are under the influence of a legal prescription drug.
A DWI case involving a prescription drug could be much more difficult to prosecute than an alleged alcohol offense because an alleged offender must be proven guilty of being under the influence of the prescription drug at the time of the alleged offense, which is not as straightforward as it is when a person has submitted to the common breath alcohol testing in other cases. People accused of prescription drug DWI offenses need to know that they could have several defense options.
Were you or your loved one recently arrested for an alleged DWI involving prescription drugs in Denton, Lewisville, Flower Mound or a surrounding area of Denton County? It will be extremely important for you to seek legal representation as soon as you are able.
The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy aggressively defends individuals all over North Texas against DWI charges and can make sure that your rights are protected. Call (940) 222-8004 or contact us online right now to have our firm review your case and discuss all of your options with you during a free consultation.
Texas Penal Code § 49.04 establishes that a person commits DWI if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place. Keep in mind that Texas Penal Code § 49.01(2) defines intoxicated as meaning either or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08, or not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body.
The Texas Controlled Substances Act defines a controlled substance as a substance, including a drug, an adulterant, and a dilutant, listed in Schedules I through V or Penalty Group 1, 1-A, 2, 2-A, 3, or 4. The term includes the aggregate weight of any mixture, solution, or other substance containing a controlled substance, but does not include hemp or the tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp.
Multiple drugs are believed to impact a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Some of the most common kinds of drugs include:
● opioid pain relievers such as Codeine, Fentanyl (Actiq, Abstral, Duragesic, Fentora), Hydrocodone (Hysingla, Zohydro ER), Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin), Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), Meperidine (Demerol), Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose), Morphine (Kadian, MS Contin, Morphabond), Oliceridine (Olynvik), Oxycodone (OxyContin OxyContin, Oxaydo), Oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet), and Oxycodone and naloxone
● prescription drugs for anxiety such as benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety disorders like clonazepam (Rivotril), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), bromazepam (Lectopam), oxazepam (Serax), chlordiazepoxide (once marketed as Librium), clorazepate (Tranxene), and diazepam (Valium) as well as benzodiazepines used for the treatment of insomnia such as lorazepam (Ativan), nitrazepam (Mogadon), oxazepam (Serax), temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion), and flurazepam (Dalmane)
● anti-seizure drugs (antiepileptic drugs) such as Acetazolamide, Acetazolam, Carbamazepine, Tegretol, Mazepine, Carbamazepine CR, Clobazam, Frisium, Clonazepam, Rivotril, Clonpam, Clonazepam-R, Diazepam, Valium, Diastat, Diazemuls, Dipam, Ethosuximide, Zarontin, Fosphenytoin, Cerebyx, Gabapentin, Neurontin, Lacosamide, Vimpat, Lamotrigine, Lamictal, Levetiracetam, Keppra, Lorazepam, Ativan, Loraz, Methsuximide, Celontin, Nitrazepam, Mogadon, Nitrazedon, Oxcarbazepine, Trileptal, Paraldehyde, Phenobarbital, Phenobarb, Phenobarbital Sodium, Phenytoin, Dilantin, Phenytoin Sodium, Tremytoine, Pregabalin, Lyrica, Primidone, Rufinamide, Banzel, Stiripentol, Diacomit, Topiramate, Topamax, Valproic Acid, Epival, Depakene, Divalproex Sodium, Sodium Valproate, Vigabatrin, Sabril, Felbamate (Felbatol), Tiagabine Hydrochloride (Gabitril), and Zonisamide (Zonegran)
● antipsychotic drugs such as risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ziprasidone (Zeldox), paliperidone (Invega), aripiprazole (Abilify) and clozapine (Clozaril)
● some antidepressants such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, Selfemra, Prozac Weekly), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva), sertraline (Zoloft), vortioxetine (Trintellix, formerly known as Brintellix), vilazodone (Viibryd), duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla), and levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
● products containing codeine
● some cold remedies and allergy products, such as antihistamines (both prescription and OTC)
● sleeping pills such as Diphenhydramine, Ambien (zolpidem tartrate), Ambien CR (zolpidem tartrate extended release), Lunesta (eszopiclone), Sonata (zaleplon), Rozerem (ramelteon), Ativan (lorazepam), Halcion (triazolam), Restoril (temazepam), Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Adapin (doxepin), Aventyl (nortriptyline), Elavil (amitriptyline), Pamelor (nortriptyline), Sinequan (doxepin), and Trazodone (desyrel)
● muscle relaxants such as carisoprodol (Soma), carisoprodol/aspirin, carisoprodol/aspirin/codeine, chlorzoxazone (Parafon Forte, Lorzone), cyclobenzaprine (Fexmid, Flexeril, Amrix), metaxalone (Skelaxin, Metaxall), methocarbamol (Robaxin), orphenadrine (Norflex), and tizanidine (Zanaflex)
● medicines that treat or control symptoms of diarrhea such as Loperamide (1 brand name: Imodium) and Bismuth subsalicylate (2 brand names: Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol)
● medicines that treat or prevent symptoms of motion sickness such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and meclizine hydrochloride (Dramamine Less Drowsy)
● diet pills, “stay awake” drugs, and other medications with stimulants (e.g., caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine)
In addition to prescription drugs, it is entirely possible for an alleged offender to be accused of DWI for using an over-the-counter (OTC) drug as well. This may mean a person is arrested because of using a basic cough medicine, cold medicine, or allergy medication.
Keep in mind that Texas Transportation Code § 724.011 establishes that when a person is arrested for an offense arising out of acts alleged to have been committed while the person was operating a motor vehicle in a public place, or a watercraft, while intoxicated, they are deemed to have consented to submit to the taking of one or more specimens of the person's breath or blood for analysis to determine the alcohol concentration or the presence in the person's body of a controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance. While alcohol can be tested using roadside tests such as breathalyzers, drugs usually must be tested through blood tests that are often performed at police stations.
Under Texas Transportation Code § 724.017, only the following individuals can take a blood specimen at the request or order of a peace officer:
● a physician;
● a qualified technician;
● a registered professional nurse;
● a licensed vocational nurse; or
● a licensed or certified emergency medical technician-intermediate or emergency medical technician-paramedic authorized to take a blood specimen.
A blood specimen must be taken in a sanitary place.
Prescription Drugs and DWI Penalties in Texas
A first offense for a prescription drug-related DWI in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
It is important to keep in mind that prior DWI offenses can be used against an alleged offender even when the other offenses are alcohol-related. This means that a prescription drug DWI offense constituting a second offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000 while a third or subsequent offense will be a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
An alleged offender needs to keep in mind that Texas Penal Code § 49.10 states that in a prosecution under Texas Penal Code § 49.04 (DWI), Texas Penal Code § 49.045 (DWI with child passenger), Texas Penal Code § 49.05 (flying while intoxicated), Texas Penal Code § 49.06 (boating while intoxicated), Texas Penal Code § 49.065 (assembling or operating an amusement ride while intoxicated), Texas Penal Code § 49.07 ((intoxication assault), or Texas Penal Code § 49.08 (intoxication manslaughter), the fact that the alleged offender is or has been entitled to use the alcohol, controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance is not a defense.
Drug-Impaired Driving | NHTSA — Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website dedicated to drug-impaired driving. Learn more about substances that can impair driving, legality of drugs, and responsible behavior. You can also find information about NHTSA’s National Drug-Impaired Driving Initiative.
Some Medicines and Driving Don't Mix | FDA — View this U.S. Food and Drug Administration website dedicated to medications that can affect driving ability. You can learn more about side effects and reactions that may make it unsafe to drive as well as medicines that could affect driving. There is also information about cannabidiol (CBD) products.
If you were arrested for a DWI offense involving prescription drugs in Denton or a surrounding area of Denton County, you are going to need to find yourself an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Prosecutors can face several challenges in attempting to prove these cases beyond a reasonable doubt, so give yourself the best possible defense option.
The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy knows how to attack drug-based DWI cases and can increase your chances of getting criminal charges reduced or dismissed. We will fully explore all of your options as soon as you call (940) 222-8004 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.