Most people associate DWIs with alcohol and illegal drugs. You may be surprised to find out that you can be also be arrested for a DWI if you are under the influence of prescription drugs. In Sugar Land, you can be convicted of a DWI if you operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of ANY substance. This includes prescription medication, over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, and alcohol. Texas law treats all substances the same.
You can be convicted even if you were taking the correct dosage as prescribed by your doctor. As with alcohol, just because it is legal to take the substance does not automatically mean that it is legal to drive while taking the substance. You should always read the warning labels and ask your doctor if it is safe to drive while taking the prescription. If you discover that the side effects of the medication impair your concentration, make you drowsy, or otherwise affect your ability to operate a vehicle, you should not take it while driving.
Hydrocodone, oxycontin, Vicodin, Zoloft, Xanax, Valium, and Ambien are common drugs that cause DWIs in Sugar Land, Texas.
How Do Police Prove Prescription Drug Intoxication in Sugar Land?
According to Texas Penal Code § 49.01, you are impaired if you do not have normal use of your physical or mental facilities due to the consumption of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. Unlike alcohol, there is no measure of concentration that equals impairment. Determining impairment under prescription drugs is not as easy as administering a blood, breath, or urine test to measure BAC. Instead, Sugar Land law enforcement employs several different strategies when deciding whether to make a DWI arrest.
- 12-Step DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) Protocol. The DRE protocol is a standardized and systematic process to determine drug impairment. Among other things, the police officer will interview you, examine your gaze, and evaluate your conduct (e.g., are you tired, alert, agitated, or unresponsive). The protocol was developed by law enforcement, not medical professionals, and can lead to false arrests.
- Field Sobriety Test. Field sobriety tests are used to test a person’s balance, coordination, and attention level. There are different field sobriety tests, including the walk and turn, standing on one leg, and finger to nose.
- Blood Test. The police officer can ask you to submit to a blood test. You can refuse; however, Texas has an implied consent law that states that any person who has accepted a driver’s license from Texas consents to a chemical test when requested by law enforcement. If you refuse the test, it will lead to an automatic driver’s license suspension.
What Are the Penalties for a DWI for Prescription Drugs in Sugar Land?
DWI convictions are treating the same in Sugar Land, regardless of whether the intoxication was due to alcohol or prescription drugs. Convicted individuals can face fines, jail time, and suspension of their driver’s license. The penalty is primarily dependent on whether it is your first offense or you are a repeat offender. Even a first-time DWI arrest can result in severe penalties.
- First Offense. A first offense is categorized as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and jail time from three to 180 days. In addition, the defendant’s driver’s license will be suspended from 90 to 365 days.
- Second Offense. A second offense is categorized as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a mandatory jail term of three days to one year and a fine of up to $4,000. The defendant’s driver’s license will be suspended from 180 days to two years.
- Third Offense. A third offense is categorized as a third-degree felony punishable by two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The defendant’s driver’s license will be suspended from 180 days to two years.
The penalties are increased under certain circumstances, such as driving with an open container or drunk driving with a child passenger.
In addition to fines, jail time, and license suspensions, a DWI conviction can affect employment, education, and housing opportunities.
Your Sugar Land Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one is facing DWI charges for prescription drugs, you should reach out to a Fort Bend criminal defense attorney experienced in fighting DWI charges. Adam Capetillo is a Fort Bend County native who will protect your rights and provide a skilled and aggressive defense. Call Capetillo Law Firm today for a free consultation.