Can I Get Arrested for DWI in Texas for Drugs Instead of Alcohol?

Can I Get Arrested for DWI in Texas for Drugs Instead of Alcohol
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Yes, you can get arrested for DWI in Texas if a police officer suspects you are intoxicated on drugs rather than alcohol. In fact, arrests for driving under the influence of drugs are becoming more and more common. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been focusing on this area for several years. There has been a great deal of money spent on government-funded studies and training officers to look for the signs of intoxication via drugs on drivers. Many of these studies investigate the impact of various drugs on driving performance. Some police officers have received advanced training to detect signs of impairment from a variety of substances – both legal and illegal. It may come as a surprise to the average driver that a medicine their doctor prescribes to them could land them in jail for DWI.


Texas DWI for Drugs

Many people are unaware that you can be charged with DWI in Texas for intoxication from medication or drugs instead of alcohol. The definition of intoxication is not having the normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol or any other substance.  If you take a newly prescribed medication, for example, and it causes you to not be normal mentally or physically, you could potentially be charged with DWI if you opt to drive a car. We’ve all seen the labels on prescription bottles that warn users to not operate machinery until they have become used to the medication.

What if you are taking a medication that you’ve been taking for a long time? A medicine that your body has become tolerant of and that doesn’t impact your mental or physical abilities. In fact, taking the medication is what allows you to function normally. Ex. Chronic pain patients who need pain medication each day in order to move around and go to work. Can you still face charges? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Officers will often begin questioning drivers they pull over for traffic offenses and may ask if the driver is taking any medications. If they answer yes and begin listing the meds, the officer may decide to conduct a roadside investigation and this may lead to an arrest.

The Differences When Arrested for a Drug DWI Instead of Alcohol

If a police officer arrests a driver on suspicion of DWI where only drugs are suspected, that officer is unlikely to offer a breath test. A breath test is only able to detect alcohol in a person’s system. The suspect arrested for a DWI drugs charge will likely be offered a blood test. If they refuse, the officer will normally seek a blood search warrant instead. A blood analysis should identify what substances are in the blood and in what amounts.

The DWI case itself proceeds in the normal fashion. The same procedures are followed whether the suspected intoxicant is alcohol, drugs or a combination. However, a person may be charged with a Class A DWI if their alcohol level is alleged to be 0.15 or over. There is no similar enhancement available for a drug DWI. Those cases are charged as Class B DWI’s if it’s a first offense.

How to Proceed When Charged with a DWI in Texas for Drugs

Best practice is not to discuss your private prescription history with law enforcement. Just don’t.  If you are arrested and charged with DWI where the officer suspects intoxication via a substance other than alcohol, you can expect that a blood test is going to be administered – either with your consent or after the police officer obtains a blood search warrant.

Prosecutors typically know very little (or nothing) about substances other than alcohol that are detected in a blood specimen. If anything is there, they assume it caused intoxication. This is certainly not true but it’s the battle you face if charged with a drug DWI case.

If charged with a DWI where a drug or medication is the alleged intoxicant, it is important to hire an attorney who is familiar with the effects of substances on the human body. The attorneys at Hamilton Grant are trained in drug recognition and Managing Partner Deandra Grant has a Master’s Degree in Pharmaceutical Science.

Deandra Grant

Deandra M. Grant, JD, GC, MS is a 27-year criminal defense attorney and forensic consultant. She is the Managing Partner of Hamilton Grant PC’s five offices in DFW and Austin. A national speaker on DWI law, science and trial skills, as well as the co-author of the annually updated The Texas DWI Manual, Deandra is known as “The Lawyer Lawyers Call”. She’s also VP of Living the Doxie Dream Rescue and Sanctuary in Royse City. When not “lawyering”, Deandra is a wife, mom, painter, wine collector and dog rescuer.

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