DWI (driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired) is most often associated with alcohol.
But under Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code, a person who drives a vehicle after taking a prescription drug may be arrested for DWI if the police believe the driver is impaired, even though the driver may not have consumed any alcohol and even though the medication was prescribed by a doctor and taken in the dose prescribed.
Many prescription drugs are actually controlled substances regulated by the federal and state governments. The use of some prescription medications — even without any alcohol or illegal "street" drugs — may result in a DWI charge for "drugged driving." If a person mixes a prescription drug with alcohol, he or she may be charged with both drugged driving and drunk driving.
In Texas, drugged driving and drunk driving convictions impose the same criminal and administrative penalties, which may include jail time, expensive fines, probation, driver's license suspension, and more.
If you were arrested for DWI with prescription drugs or for drugged driving in Lewisville, Texas, or anywhere in Denton County, Texas, you should consider conferring with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer experienced in DWI cases. A qualified attorney will be able to explain your charges and inform you of available options to help you make the best decision about your case.
It is important to act quickly because you have only 15 days after a DWI arrest to request an administrative hearing related to your driving privileges or those privileges will be suspended.
Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy is equipped with the knowledge and experience to vigorously defend a charge of DWI with prescription drugs or a charge of drugged driving. Depending on the facts of the case, our attorneys may be able to uncover evidence that results in a reduction of charges or an outright dismissal, but Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy will take a case to trial if necessary to fight against a DWI conviction.
Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy represents DUI clients throughout Denton County, including the cities of Denton, Lewisville, The Colony, Little Elm, Flower Mound and many nearby communities throughout the North Dallas metropolitan area. Contact us today at 940-222-8004 so we can review your case and explain your options during a free, confidential consultation with one of our skilled DWI attorneys.
Under the Texas Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 49, § 49.04, a person may be charged with DWI, DUI or driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a controlled substance in Lewisville, Texas if he or she "operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated in a public place."
Section 49.01(2) of the Texas Penal Code defines "intoxicated" as "not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties (due to the consumption of) alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, or a combination of two or more of those substances" or "having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more."
A "motor vehicle" is defined in §32.34(2) of the Texas Penal Code as "a device in, on, or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a highway, except a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks." Under this definition, motor vehicles include cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, water scooters, airplanes, helicopters and even riding lawn mowers, but not trains.
In addition, a person must have "actual physical control" of a vehicle in order to be "operating" the vehicle.
If a driver is suspected of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a prescription medication, the police will seek to test the driver's blood for the presence of any drugs or controlled substances. It does matter when the driver ingested the drug as long as its presence is detected in the test, even though the physical effects of many drugs dissipate before the body flushes all remnants of the drug from the system.
Some of the prescription drugs most often found in DWI toxicology tests include:
Officers from the police, sheriff or Texas Highway Patrol may seek to conduct blood tests during DUI investigations to determine the presence of drugs in a driver's system if impairment due to drugs is suspected.
These tests are allowed under Texas' "implied consent" law, because by accepting a driver's license from the State of Texas, a driver consents to chemical tests for intoxicants when requested by the police. A person may refuse to take a DUI blood test, but the refusal of a test will result in an automatic administrative driver's license suspension (which may be appealed).
In certain cases, such as a serious accident causing bodily injury or death, the police may obtain a search warrant to withdraw blood and do so even if a person refuses to be tested (See Texas Transportation Code, § 724.013). Anyone who withdraws blood from a DWI suspect must be qualified to do so and the equipment used must be certified as accurate.
Blood testing is not foolproof. Inaccuracies in the way a test is conducted may occur. A knowledgeable DWI attorney may be able to find problems with way a test is conducted, the person who conducted the test or the testing equipment. Any of these scenarios may result in the results of the blood test being excluded as evidence in a criminal DWI trial.
In addition, blood tests may reveal substances that may still be present from previous use. They do not directly indicate the driver was under the influence or intoxicated by drugs at the time of the arrest. An experienced DUI attorney may be able to argue that the mere presence of drug residue in the blood is not necessarily indicative of legal intoxication at the time of arrest.
A first-time conviction for DWI with Prescription Drugs is a Class B misdemeanor charge in Texas, which is punishable by a mandatory minimum term of 72 hours in jail and up to 180 days in jail as well as a fine of up to $2,000, or both (Texas Penal Code, §§ 49.04(b) and 12.22).
If the driver had an open container of alcohol at the time of arrest, the mandatory minimum jail term is increased to six days (Texas Penal Code, § 49.04(c)).
A second drugged driving charge is usually a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable upon conviction by a mandatory minimum term of 30 days in jail and a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000, or both (Texas Penal Code, §§ 49.09(a) and 12.21).
A third drugged driving charge or a charge of intoxication assault from the use of drugs may result in a third-degree felony conviction, which is punishable by a term of two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, or both (Texas Penal Code, §§ 49.07, 49.09(b)(1) and 12.34).
Intoxication manslaughter from the use of drugs may result in a second-degree felony conviction, which is punishable by a term of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, or both (Texas Penal Code, §§ 49.08 and 12.33).
The criminal court is only one obstacle that a person charged with DWI with prescription drugs must confront, because Texas follows up with harsh administrative (civil) penalties as well.
Additional punishments for a DWI conviction may include any of the following:
Insurance companies also charge higher rates for drivers with a DWI conviction.
Texas Penal Code, Chapter 49 — DWI with Prescription Drugs — Read the Texas statutes related to the state’s intoxication laws and penalties that can result from a conviction, including DWI with prescription drugs offenses (Section 49.04) in Texas and the potential penalties for a conviction.
Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 724 — Implied Consent — Read the Texas statutes related to implied consent and blood testing in Texas.
Texas Drug Offender Education Program — Find information about the DWI drug offender education program in Texas. The program, designed by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), is required of all persons convicted of DWI with prescription drugs before they may reinstate their license.
Denton County Drug and DWI Court — The Denton County Drug and DWI Court presides over drug and DWI cases in the county. The court is located at:Denton County Criminal Court No. 5
If you were arrested on charges of DWI with Prescription Drugs or Drugged Driving anywhere in Denton County, Texas or the surrounding areas, contact Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today to schedule a free initial consultation about your case.
The experienced DWI attorneys at Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy will strive to help you avoid the most serious penalties and repercussions of a drugged driving charge including cases involving DWI while under the influence of marijuana. We serve clients throughout Denton County, including Lewisville, Denton, The Colony, Little Elm, Flower Mound, Grapevine, Westlake and the University of North Texas.
We may be able to find problems with the prosecution's case, flaws in the blood tests that were conducted, or with the arrest itself, which may result in a reduction or dismissal of charges. You have little time to lose in order to retain your driving privileges, so contact Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today at 940-222-8004 to discuss your case.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, January 5, 2015.
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