It is a well-known fact that driving while under the influence of alcohol puts you at risk for being charged with DWI, or Driving While Intoxicated. But did you know that if you take a prescription medication which affects your perception and coordination, you could be arrested on the same charge?
Prescription DWI carries the same penalties as driving while drunk. The fact that you are ill and taking medicine under doctor’s orders does not matter.
If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with prescription drug DWI, here are five important facts that you need to know.
1. Doctor’s Orders Are No Excuse
You may be surprised to learn that if you are charged with operating a motor vehicle while impaired by prescription medication, you face consequences as serious as if you were caught driving drunk.
Under Texas law, intoxication is interpreted to include not just alcohol but also prescription medications, over the counter medications and illegal drugs.
Even if you have a documented medical condition for which a doctor prescribes you medication, this does not absolve you of the responsibility to drive in a safe manner.
Drugs like allergy medications, antidepressants, and insomnia aids often have warning labels which caution against driving or using heavy machinery. Doctors also advise patients on these pharmaceuticals of possible side effects, including sleepiness and confusion.
Under the law, if a reasonable person would have known that taking those drugs would affect their driving, they should not have gotten behind the wheel.
2. Even Without a High Blood/Alcohol Content, You May Still Be Liable
Most police will give a Breathalyzer test to someone they stop on suspicion of DWI. This kind of test measures the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream and is an important consideration in whether someone might be convicted of this crime.
You may think that because you were not drinking when you are picked up for DWI, you are not going to be convicted. That would be a false assumption.
You should consider some of the facts of a DWI in Texas: specifically, Breathalyzer results are just one of a set of factors taken into account in determining whether someone is driving while intoxicated.
An officer needs probable cause to arrest you for DWI. That probable case may be found if a police officer observes any, some or all of the following:
- You look or sound drunk: unsteady, slurring
- Your behavior is odd – erratic, irresponsible driving: too slow or too fast, weaving
- The presence or smell of alcohol in your car
- How you perform in a field sobriety test
Whether you have taken a Benadryl or a Xanax, you may be unable to walk a straight line or answer the officer’s questions clearly and coherently.
Lack of alcohol in your system does not mean you are immune from arrest for DWI.
3. Prescription Drug Abuse is a National Epidemic
There is a prescription drug crisis in this country.
Opiates- prescribed by doctors or not- are an increasing cause for car crash-related deaths.
Maybe twenty years ago, a police officer might have given you another chance if he pulled you over and you told him you had taken a prescription pill. Nowadays though, there is a strong push in law enforcement and the courts to prevent people from driving while impaired by any substance- legal or not.
Many people abuse prescription medications, even those prescribed by legitimate medical professionals. Unscrupulous doctors even prescribe these drugs to people who do not need them but who have formed addictions to them.
Having a prescription no longer means that you are not a drug addict.
Law enforcement has become especially vigilant in the face of this national crisis. With many prescription drug-related fatal accidents in the news, police departments are heavily focused on preventing more tragedies.
Whether or not you are someone who is using drugs for a legitimate medical condition, getting picked up for driving while using something that impairs you is a big deal. It can have serious consequences for your life, career, and family.
4. Penalties for DWI are Severe
If you are convicted of DWI for driving while impaired by a prescription medication, you will face steep penalties.
The punishment is based on how many previous offenses you may have and whether this is your first infraction. Courts will also consider your blood alcohol level and whether a child was present in the vehicle.
If this is your first offense, you might be sentenced to a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail sentence ranging from 3 to 180 days. Your license could be suspended for a length of time ranging from 90 to 365 days.
If it is your second time, you face the penalties given for a Class A Misdemeanor: a fine of up to $4,000 with the potential of a 30-day to a 365-day jail sentence. You can also lose your license for anywhere from 180 days to up to two years.
If it is your third offense, you face Third Degree felonies penalties which include a $10,000 fine and the possibility of spending two to ten years in prison. You will be unable to vote or own a firearm.
The fines, prison time and legal fees associated with these convictions may have a significant and negative effect on not just you and your career but your family and finances as well.
5. You Need an Experienced Lawyer to Help You
Even though it is a serious matter to be picked up for prescription DWI, there is hope.
With a skilled prescription DWI attorney, you can contest the charges. Because of the difference between driving while intoxicated and driving while using prescription drugs, there are legal strategies which can spare you from the huge impact this could have on your life.
It is important to immediately contact an attorney experienced in this area. Depending upon your individual circumstances, you may be able to avoid jail time, burdensome fees and other devastating consequences.
Proving Prescription Drug DWI: The Burden is On The State
If you are arrested for DWI, it is up to the prosecuting attorney to prove that you have violated the law. A skilled prescription drug DWI lawyer will contest every aspect of the state’s case, giving you a chance to possibly avoid the most serious penalties.
If you or someone you care about is facing this kind of charge, you need to speak to a professional. Contact us to discuss how we can help.