You Can Face the Same Criminal Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs As You Can Alcohol, Regardless of Whether They Have Been Prescribed To You
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2014, 10 million people ages 12 or older reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs. Marijuana can specifically slow recreation time and impair judgment, while benzodiazepines can cause dizziness and drowsiness, and cocaine and methamphetamines can result in aggressive and reckless driving.
When most people think of “driving under the influence,” they think of drinking and driving; they do not think of the countless other substances that can impair one’s ability to operate a car, and the charges that they carry if you are found driving under the influence of drugs. Driving under the influence of medication can absolutely result in DUI/DWI charges, even if it involves prescription medication.
How can law enforcement tell if a driver is under the influence of medication, given that they can’t exactly use a Breathalyzer test to test for medication levels? Note that law enforcement can also demand a blood test, and many drugs can be detected that way. If you refuse to take the test, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for 180 days, as Texas abides by an “implied consent” law, requiring all drivers lawfully arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to submit to blood testing when requested by an officer.
However, a verifiable blood test is not absolutely required to charge you with a DWI: you are considered “intoxicated” if you “lack the normal use of mental or physical faculties” as the result of any substance. The law not only applies to controlled substances, drugs, dangerous drugs, a combination of several categories, etc., but any substance introduced into the body. And what might surprise you is that having a prescription for the substance—and having taken an amount that falls within the boundaries of that prescription—is not a viable defense.
It is also important to keep in mind that drivers do not technically have to be driving while they are arrested for a DWI: courts have interpreted the phrase “operating a motor vehicle” very broadly, and this can include attempting or engaging in any action to use the vehicle.
The penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are similar to alcohol-related DWIs; and thus dependent upon whether it is a first, second, or third offense (where alcohol and/or drug-related offenses both count).
Without a Breathalyzer test, measuring the degree of driving under the influence of medication can be very complicated and arguably more difficult for law enforcement to assess. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of medication, speak with one of our DUI/DWI attorneys right away to find out how we can help.