Driving while intoxicated, better known as “DWI”, is when you have been charged with operating a motor vehicle while “intoxicated”. The Texas penal code has defined legally “intoxicated” as: 1) not having the normal use of your mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or 2) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. See Texas Penal Code 49.01(2). The second way is not applicable when we are not talking about alcohol, so the police are going to try to show you are intoxicated due to drugs by only the first definition. If you are acting suspiciously and the police officer suspects that you have taken something other than alcohol, then he is going to try to find out what you took to see if you are “legally intoxicated” based off drugs.
There are two categories of drugs: legal and illegal. Just because you have been prescribed a drug does not mean that you are free to take as much of it as you want. The warning label on the medication bottle warns you to not drive or operate heavy machinery until and unless you are familiar with how the drug affects you. There have been countless individuals who have taken their medications as prescribed, but the dosage was too much for them and that caused them to be “legally intoxicated”. It may not seem fair but that is the law. Although you may not have had any intention on getting “high” or taking too much, the law says that if you voluntarily took the pills then you can be held responsible for your actions of driving a car while intoxicated.
If you have taken an illegal drug, such as heroin, meth, or cocaine, then the police still have to prove that you have lost the normal use of your mental or physical faculties. Someone could ingest a large amount of an illegal substance and the blood results could prove that, but if the police officer cannot show that you are legally intoxicated, then it is not illegal to simply be in consumption of that illegal substance. Possession of illegal drugs is a crime, consumption is not, unless that consumption is causing you to commit a different crime or be a danger to yourself or others.
Whether it is an over-the-counter drug, a prescription drug, or an illegal drug, the government is going to try to prove intoxication through a blood test. However, the blood test is going to show what substances are in your blood at the time of the test, not at the time of the stop, which is when the government must show you were legally intoxicated due to drugs. Therefore, the government is going to try to show that you lost the normal use of your mental and physical faculties at the time of the stop by 1) asking you questions about how much you had, when you had it, and how long you’ve been taking this drug, etc. and 2) having you perform the same standardized field sobriety tests they have someone who is suspected of being legally intoxicated due to alcohol perform. There are a multitude of reasons why someone would fail these roadside gymnastics tests and having even a little alcohol in your system or taking your medications as prescribed could still affect your balance and memory and make the officer think you are intoxicated.
Before you choose to take any medication and drive, be aware that taking too much can land you behind bars even if you didn’t mean to become legally intoxicated. The more you know, the safer you are and the more careful you will be if you choose to drive and happen to be pulled over.
If you have been arrested for or charged with a DWI, don’t hesitate to reach out to a criminal lawyer in Arlington, TX to discuss your options and defense strategy.
Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into criminal law and DWI arrests.