Before taking your normal over-the-counter cold medicine and going out to pick up the kids or heading to the grocery store, you should be aware that driving under the influence of medications – whether prescribed or not – is considered driving while intoxicated and can lead to a DWI arrest.
In Texas, operating a vehicle while impaired or under the influence of any substance – whether it is alcohol, illicit drugs, or even prescribed or over-the-counter medication – is grounds for being charged with a DWI. Considering the fact that these medications often impair an individual’s mental or physical capacities, driving while under the influence of them is not only illegal, it’s also dangerous.
How Taking Certain Medications Can Lead to an Arrest
Because it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in a public place in Texas while intoxicated, it goes without saying that taking prescription drugs and getting on the road puts you at risk of driving while impaired and is grounds for being pulled over and charged with a DWI.
A common misconception among many individuals is that a prescription from your doctor can protect you from the legal ramifications you face if you take medication and drive. This is simply not true. It is your sole responsibility to determine your mental and physical capacity at the time of taking any medications and getting behind the wheel. You also need to realize that taking certain prescription medications in combination with one another may cause you to have impaired mental or physical faculties, thereby leading to a DWI charge.
These situations can be especially difficult for individuals who have been prescribed medication to treat conditions such as anxiety or depression. Moreover, many individuals are unaware that their prescription medications can lead to an arrest and sometimes admit they’re taking certain medications to an officer. While they may believe they committed no intentional wrongdoing, the officer now has a confession of a DWI from the individual, which can lead to an immediate drugged driving arrest.
Why It’s Hard to Measure Impairment from Medications
While Texas law does not have limits to rely upon for a presumption of intoxication like it does of alcohol, sometimes a therapeutic dose in your bloodstream is enough evidence to allow a prosecutor to pursue a case. Coupling taking multiple prescription medications, along with an aging population in Texas, means that officers may rely more and more upon their observations. An officer may ask an individual to perform field sobriety tests, some of which are difficult for even sober individuals to complete correctly. It is important to remember, that just because you are stopped, and an officer says, hey take these tests and if you pass I will let you go, you are not required to participate in any of the standard field sobriety tests.
However, all drivers in Texas are subject to implied consent, which means if you’re driving, you are consenting to provide either a breath or blood sample, test if you’re under suspicion of being impaired. While you can refuse to provide this sample, the implied consent law will result in your driver’s license being suspended. If a warrant is obtained, even for a blood test, you must provide the sample.
Chemical tests can at best detect the existence of a substance and the amount, but these tests cannot detect any level of impairment – mainly because the side effects of medications affect everyone differently based on their own biological makeup, and unlike some states, Texas has not adopted any minimum level amounts to act as a presumption of intoxication like some other states – namely Colorado with marijuana.
Types of Medications That Can Get You Arrested for a DWI
It’s advised that you don’t operate a motor vehicle when your mental and physical capabilities are impaired by any type of medication – prescription or not. The following are some of the most common types of medications that impair drivers and lead to DWI/drugged driving arrests:
- Allergy medications that cause drowsiness
- Anti-anxiety or anti-depressant products or medications
- Pain relievers
- Sleeping pills
If you’ve started taking a new medication, you should be aware of how certain medications affect you before getting out on the road.
It’s important to remember that a prescription from your doctor cannot serve as a defense against DWI charges that rely upon medication as being the intoxicant. While your lawyer can argue that the levels in our blood are purely therapeutic in nature, and therefore do not rise to the level of impairing your mental or physical faculties, sometimes that argument does not keep a case from going to trial. Since every case is different, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate DWI offenses caused by prescription drugs.
If you have been arrested, contact my office immediately for a free consultation.