Think a DWI charge only applies to cases that involve drinking alcohol and driving? Think again. Driving while under the influences of many substances other than alcohol is a serious offense and considered a DUI or DWI just like alcohol. Even if your blood alcohol concentration is within the legal limit of .08, you can be charged with a DUI/DWI offense if your driving is obviously impaired. The testing process gets more difficult with substances like prescriptions drugs and marijuana, since there’s no immediate test like a breathalyzer available for such substances, and officers may resort to requesting that you perform a field sobriety test—which you DO NOT have to submit to.
No matter what substance is affecting your judgement, impaired is impaired under Texas Law, and even a prescription will not keep you from being charged with a DUI or DWI.
Here is a list of substances that can constitute a DUI/DWI offense:
Alcoholic beverages are usually the first thing you think of when you think of a DUI/DWI. In all states, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.8%, but you can be arrested with a BAC of lower than 0.8% if your driving is visibly impaired and the authorities have reasonable grounds to assume intoxication is the reason for that impairment. Common tests include using a breathalyzer during a vehicle stop, urine or blood testing at a hospital, or a field sobriety test. Implied consent laws require drivers to submit to one of the chemical tests, but NOT a field sobriety test.
As marijuana is currently still illegal in Texas, be aware that driving under any influence of this drug will get you in serious trouble. Texas Penal Code § 49.01 states that any amount of marijuana substance found in your bloodstream can establish that you’re driving under the influence of an illegal substance. Detectable amounts of this substance can also remain in your bloodstream for weeks at a time after usage—which means that traces may appear in a chemical test even if you last used it weeks ago.
Contrary to popular belief, a doctor’s prescription does not protect you from being pulled over and charged with a DWI. Drugged driving is just as serious as drunk driving and can lead to your arrest. Impairment is impairment, no matter how you got that way, and the legal ramifications are the same even if you have a doctor’s note. You are responsible for knowing your mental and physical status before you get on the road. If your faculties are evidently impaired, you can be charged with a DUI/DWI.
Even if you’re just taking medication for the common cold, it’s best to think twice before getting behind the wheel. Any medication that causes drowsiness, lethargy, or confusion should not be taken before driving, and that includes medications you might not normally think about. Sleeping pills are a big no-no, but so are pain relievers, allergy medications, and antihistamines. If you are impaired in any way by any type of medication, prescribed or not, let someone else drive.
If you’re facing a DUI/DWI charge, don’t hesitate to contact my office. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to offer reliable legal advice and help you get the best results possible in court. Depending on your case, this could look like reduced charges, reduced jail time, or even a not guilty verdict.