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What To Know About Prescription Medication DWI Arrests

impaired male driver sitting in a car alone at night, in the dark.

It’s common knowledge that drinking too much alcohol before getting behind the wheel can lead to a DWI arrest in Texas. The same can happen when using drugs before getting behind the wheel – even if you have a prescription.

Under Texas state law, DWI charges can be brought if a person is caught driving under the influence of ANY substance or dangerous drug that impairs the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. This includes alcohol, illegal drugs – and prescription medication.

What prescription medications can impair the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle? They include Vicodin, Valium, Xanax, antidepressants, barbiturates, and products containing codeine.

A DWI conviction for prescription drugs has consequences

The penalties for a first-time prescription medication DWI offense are the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. These penalties include a maximum fine of $2,000, up to six months in jail, and a one-year suspension of your driver’s license.

A prior conviction or aggravating circumstances can mean additional penalties. These include community service, probation, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), mandatory educational courses, and a mandatory treatment program.

Then there are the other consequences. A DWI conviction can affect your ability to get a job, get a loan, rent private housing, and get approved for public housing.

How do police prove a driver is impaired by prescription drugs?

Since breathalyzer tests don’t detect the presence of prescription medications, officers rely heavily on field sobriety tests. The problem is that these tests are very subjective, and poor performance can be explained by many other factors.

If a driver is arrested for DWI based on a field sobriety test, police can request the driver submit to a blood test. While a blood test may detect certain prescription drugs, it is not always effective.

In many cases, police look for evidence of prescription medication because the driver admitted to taking them. If you tell a police officer about taking any prescription medication, pain reliever, sedative, or antidepressant, that statement will be used against you. That’s why it’s important to remain silent until you speak to a DWI defense attorney.

Defending against DWI charges

The fact that you have a valid prescription for medication is not a valid defense. But depending on the circumstances of your case, there are a number of legal strategies that can be used to defend a DWI charge involving prescription medication. They include:

  • Police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull your vehicle over.
  • Police lacked probable cause to arrest you.
  • Test results were inaccurate, or proper procedure was not followed when administering them.
  • Police violated your constitutional rights.

But every case is different. That’s why you need an experienced and aggressive Texas DWI lawyer. Attorney Amanda Webb has been defending clients against criminal charges in Montgomery County since 2009. As a result, she is very familiar with Texas DWI laws and how they apply to the use of prescription medications.

There’s a lot at stake if you’ve been arrested for DWI. Learn more about how we can help. Contact us for a free consultation.