Prescription Drug DWI

Prescription drugs are given to us to better our health and lifestyle. You’re legally entitled to take these drugs if you’ve been prescribed by a certified physician. However, the law starts to get tricky if your prescription impairs your driving. You could be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) for using your prescription drugs. Some prescription or over-the-counter medications can inhibit your motor control. Others could make you drowsy, so your reaction time is much slower. Either way, the legal consequences are still the same as if you drove while under the influence of alcohol. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI for prescription drugs, it’s imperative you seek an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Attorney for Prescription DWI in Harris County, Texas

Driving while intoxicated doesn’t only apply to alcoholic beverages. It can even include common prescription drugs such as Xanax and Ambien. You might have a valid prescription for these drugs, but that won’t be a valid defense in the courtroom. If you or someone you know has been charged with a prescription drug DWI, it’s important you seek legal counsel. Call Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. to set up a case evaluation today. Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. creates effective and efficient defenses through quality legal service. Don’t wait another moment to tackle these allegations. Contact us at (713) 224-5529 today. Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. accepts clients throughout the greater Houston metroplex area including Pasadena, Bellaire, West University Place and Tomball. Overview of Prescription Drug DWI

Can I Get a DWI For Using Prescription Drugs in Texas?

The majority of people are under the impression a DWI is strictly for alcohol. What you might not know is you could be charged for DWI if your prescription affects your driving. Texas Penal Code § 49.04 states you’re driving while intoxicated if you:

  • Operate a motor vehicle in a public place; and
  • Have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher OR your mental and physical faculties were impaired by a controlled substance or alcohol

A “controlled substance” can also apply to prescription drugs. Most prescription drugs are listed in a penalty group in the Texas Controlled Substance Act, so they are technically a controlled substance. In some cases, a prescription drug will impair your motor functions to the point law enforcement believe you’re intoxicated. Law enforcement will use chemical and field sobriety testing to determine if you’re intoxicated. If the officer suspects you of using drugs, they’ll probably ask you to submit to a blood draw. Blood analysis is the most accurate out of the three chemical tests but comes with problems. A prescription drug could affect your BAC depending on the situation. If you had one drink paired with your prescription, the outcome is much more likely. Outdated equipment and the possibility of a contaminated sample could also produce a false positive. Because of this, it’s highly advised you refuse chemical testing. Field sobriety testing is a series of physical exercises designed to evaluate your physical and mental faculties. You might have seen a variety of these test on the internet, but only three are admissible in court. These have been standardized by the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and include the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. It’s highly recommended you also refuse field sobriety testing. The results are vague and up to the police officer’s discretion. In addition, prescription drugs have been known to lessen your motor control. You could fail the field sobriety tests with no proof you have taken any drugs. Not only this, but external factors can affect your results. Simple environmental aspects such as lighting, or weather can cause you to fail a field sobriety test.

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Penalties for Prescription DWI in Texas

Driving while intoxicated is a common charge but carries heavy penalties. A conviction could mean expensive fines and could even land you in jail or prison. It’s important you’re aware of the full scope of DWI penalties before entering the courtroom. Listed below are the penalties for driving while intoxicated in Texas. First Offense

  • Class B Misdemeanor, which is punishable by:
    • Fine of up to $2,000
    • Up to 180 days in county jail;
    • Up to 100 hours of community service;
    • License suspension for up to 12 months;
    • Required DWI Education Program; and
    • Yearly fee by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) of up to $2,000 for 3 years.

Second Offense

  • Class A Misdemeanor
    • Fine of up to $4,000
    • Up to 12 months in county jail;
    • Up to 200 hours of community service;
    • License suspension for up to 2 years;
    • Required DWI Education Program; and
    • Yearly fee by DPS of up to $2,000 for 3 years.

Third Offense

  • Third-Degree Felony
    • Fine of up to $10,000
    • Up to 10 years in prison;
    • Up to 200 hours of community service;
    • License suspension for up to 2 years;
    • Required DWI Education Program; and
    • Yearly fee by DPS of up to $2,000 for 3 years.

A crime could be reclassified if certain aggravating factors are present. If you have a BAC of .15 or more during your DWI, then you could face a class A misdemeanor. The penalties for a class A misdemeanor are a fine of up to $4,000 and 12 months in county jail. Your charges could be reclassified to state jail felony if you have a child passenger in the car. A state jail felony could result in a fine of up to $10,000 and 24 months in state jail.

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Prescription Drugs Commonly Used in Texas

Doctors prescribe certain controlled substances for medicinal reasons. Some Texans use these drugs every day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, some prescription drugs can cause side effects similar to alcohol consumption. This can, unfortunately, lead to DWI charges. For example, Percocet is used for pain relief particularly after a surgery or medical procedure. Percocet can also produce side effects similar to inebriations such as dizziness, lightheadedness, or a slowed reaction time. Listed below are common prescription drugs associated with DWI.

  • Stadol
  • Steroids
  • Tussin
  • Valium
  • Vicodin
  • Xanax
  • Oxycontin
  • Adderall
  • Codeine
  • Percocet
  • Ritalin
  • Soma
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM)

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Could I Use My Prescription as a Defense?

You have the right to take your medicine as prescribed by a certified physician. However, you’re not permitted to drive with those prescription drugs in your system. If you were aware the prescription could cause impairment, then the judge may say it was your responsibility to avoid the road. Texas Penal Code § 49.10 states it’s not a valid defense to present your legitimate prescription of the drug resulting in DWI. The court will still recognize it as DWI even if you were undergoing a serious medical issue. Fortunately, you can hire legal representation to explore other defenses. Some of these include a lack of impairment. If you denied chemical testing, it’s likely the prosecution will have little proof of your “intoxication.” The District Attorney will have to rely on objective evidence from the police report and dashcam. Your attorney could argue there’s no proof of your inebriation, so the charges should be dropped. If you submitted to chemical testing and failed, there’s no need to panic. Your attorney can use a multitude of defenses such as inadmissible breath results. Breathalyzers and other forms of chemical testing have a history of malfunctioning. The defense could contest your results were false because of poorly maintained equipment or a contaminated sample.

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Additional Resources

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs – Visit an official resource site for parents and educators by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) called DrugAbuse.Gov. Access the site to find more information about prescription drugs and their potential for abuse. Learn more about their side effects, possible health risks, where they are on the DEA schedule and more. Texas DWI Laws – Visit the official website of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to learn more about DWI laws in Texas. Access the site learn the charge specifics of DWI, enhancements, aggravated DWI and possible admissible defenses in court.

Lawyer Explains How to Fight Prescription Drug DWI in Houston, Texas

If you or someone you know has been charged with DWI while using prescription drugs, it’s important you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Presenting your legitimate prescription will not hold up in court. You could still be convicted for DWI for using prescription drugs. Call Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. today at (713) 224-5529 to fight these charges. Our firm prides ourselves on formulating strong defenses for our clients. Contact Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. to speak to an attorney. Tyler Flood & Associates, Inc. represents people accused of DWI throughout the Harris County area including Bellaire, Pasadena, West University Place and Tomball.


This article was last updated on March 7th, 2019.


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