What Is Prescription Drug DWI in Texas?

Prescription drug DWI is a criminal offense in Texas that involves driving while intoxicated by a prescribed medication or over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceutical drugs. If you are arrested and charged with prescription drug DWI, this is a very serious matter. The penalties you face are no different than those of an alcohol-related offense, which can be severe.

If you’re like most people, you probably assume it’s safe to take your medication and go about your day. To you, your prescription drugs aren’t for recreation – they help you manage a serious medical condition. Even under these circumstances, it’s possible to catch a DWI charge.

Prescribed Drugs That Can Result in DWI

“Intoxication” is a word commonly associated with alcohol, but Texas law provides that it can refer to impairment caused by any substance whether it’s legal or not. This includes OTC medicine and pharmaceutical drugs prescribed by a doctor.

Prescribed drugs that commonly lead to DWIs include the following:

  • Opioids and other painkillers
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Sedatives
  • Sleep aides
  • Antidepressants
  • Allergy medications (which may cause drowsiness)

A few specific drugs that fall into these categories include Vicodin, Oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Ambien, Lunesta, Adderall, Ritalin, and Claritin.

Impairment Is a Key Factor

Impairment is a key factor in any DWI case, but it’s especially important for prescription drug DWI cases. Unlike alcohol, there’s no way to scientifically test for a prescription drug other than to take a blood test. This means police officers are often focused on collecting circumstantial evidence of impairment, which is often highly subjective.

Adding to this complex issue is the fact that not all prescribed or OTC drugs cause impairment, and not all drugs affect everyone in the same way. For example, someone may exhibit unusual side effects from taking a medication that most people don’t. If those side effects affect that person’s mental or physical abilities, they may be too impaired to drive and can be arrested for DWI.

Of course, there are prescribed drugs – like those mentioned in the prior section – that are expected to cause impairment in most people. These drugs often have warnings that explicitly tell the consumer to avoid driving or “operating heavy machinery.” If an officer finds evidence that a driver was on such a medication, they may initiate a DWI arrest.

Should I Tell a Police Officer I’m Taking a Medication?

No. If a police officer asks if you are taking a certain medication or have a certain ailment, don’t say anything. You have the right to remain silent and you should use it. Whatever you do, though, never lie to the police and say you aren’t taking a medication if you are. This is a crime, and you may be arrested for it.

Should I Show the Police My Prescription?

Generally speaking, don’t offer the police any information that can be used against you. You may have been pulled over for a slight driving error, but telling the police officer you’re on a medication can turn a routine traffic stop into a DWI investigation.

What Are the Penalties for Prescription Drug DWI?

If you are convicted of prescription drug DWI, you face the same penalties as you would in any other DWI case. A judge can sentence you to jail, fines, and substance abuse education programs. You can also lose your license for several years.

What Should I Do If I’m Arrested?

If you are arrested for prescription drug DWI, immediately invoke your rights to remain silent and speak with an attorney. Refuse to answer any question that doesn’t involve biographical facts, like your name or address. Keep in mind that this doesn’t include questions about your medical history, current medical condition, or any medications you’re taking.

If you need an attorney to call, you can reach out to us at The Law Office of Rene A. Flores PLLC for help. Our lawyer has many years of experience helping people charged with DWI seek better outcomes. With our help, it’s possible to avoid a conviction or mitigate the impact of one by reducing your charges to less serious offenses.

Learn more about our assistance by contacting The Law Office of Rene A. Flores PLLC online today!

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