Can I Get Charged with a DWI for Taking Prescription Medication and Driving?

When it comes to DWI, prescription drugs are really no different from alcohol or any other intoxicant.

Prescription drugs fall into three main categories: opioids, stimulants, and central nervous system (CNS) depressants. If you take any of these medications or any other substance that can negatively impact your normal use of your faculties, you could potentially get charged with a DWI if the officer feels that you are intoxicated.

1. How Can I Safely Take Prescription Medication in Texas?

Under Texas state law, it’s not illegal to drive if you’re medicated with prescription drugs. However, you must meet two key requirements.

  • First, you must possess a legal prescription for the medication.
  • Second, you must not meet the statutory definition of intoxication when you’re pulled over.

In other words, you can take your prescription drugs as long as they don’t interfere with your ability to drive.

When a member of the police force pulls you over, he or she may ask you to take roadside field sobriety tests or take a breath test. Since your medication can’t be detected with a breath test, they will use the video of your field sobriety test to establish probable cause, which could lead to an arrest.

After your arrest, you will likely submit to a blood test, which won’t identify your medication but could provide the prosecutor with enough information to file DWI charges against you. It’s important that you retain your right to remain silent during every stage in this process so that you don’t incriminate yourself. Just mentioning that you are taking medication for pain, depression, or to sleep could be enough to convict you in court.

2. What Happens If I Don’t Have a Prescription or I Show Signs of Intoxication?

Failure to present your legal prescription and/or displaying signs of intoxication can result in a DWI arrest and your possible conviction. If you don’t have a legal prescription for the drug and meet the statutory definition of intoxication, you will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor if it’s a first-time offense. This charge entails your license being revoked for a year, a fine of $2,000, and a possible jail sentence of up to six months.

The consequences can be a lot worse if it’s a second-time conviction. In cases of a Class A misdemeanor or 3rd-degree felony the prison sentence is significantly longer and the fines are much higher. In addition, offenders face additional court-ordered penalties. These commonly include community service, probation, ignition interlock installation on the vehicle, counseling, rehab, educational courses, etc.

If you are convicted, this fact will become a part of your permanent criminal record, which can prevent you from getting a good job, going to your dream school, qualifying for a student loan, or even renting an apartment.

3. What Should I Do If I’m Arrested for a Drug-Related DWI?

If you were recently charged with DWI because of prescription drug intoxication in Texas, contact an experienced, qualified, and committed lawyer. Attorney JL Carpenter has handled numerous complex DWI cases over the years, including those involving prescription medications. As one of the most recognized DWI attorneys in Friendswood, Clear Lake, and the Greater Houston area, she builds an aggressive defense for her clients, with the goal of getting their cases dismissed.

Click here to schedule a consultation with her. JL Carpenter also handles domestic violence, family violence, drug possession, and a wide range of other criminal defense cases. Explore her practice areas and case results to learn more.

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