Driving while impaired (DWI) is one of the more common criminal offenses that happens in Texas. People enjoy drinking and may not realize they are dangerously under the influence and no longer functioning at full capacity when they get behind the wheel.
In other words, many people who find themselves facing DWI charges don't even realize that they broke the law. That is also frequently true for individuals who get in trouble with the law for driving after taking prescription medication. Despite what you may believe, driving after taking a prescribed drug could result in criminal charges.
Just because a doctor prescribed it doesn't mean it's safe to drive
Prescription drugs are controlled substances under Texas law. That means that you can't legally access them without a written recommendation from a doctor and via safe dispensation from either the doctor's practice or an independent pharmacist.
The doctor will give you the rules regarding how to safely take the medication. Many times, medications come from the pharmacy with warning labels on them. Any medication that has a sticker advising that it can cause drowsiness or impair your ability to handle machinery should not be taken before driving.
If you do get pulled over, just asserting that a doctor prescribed medication to you will not help. In fact, it could actually hurt you, as the police will understand that the medication comes with a warning about operating a motor vehicle under its influence. If the medication isn't yours, you could also face additional possession charges.
Drugged drivers can face the same penalties as drunk drivers
Getting pulled over for erratic driving and winding up arrested for drugged driving can be the beginning of a nightmare scenario in Texas. Officers are on the lookout for drugged drivers. The state has strict rules regarding impaired driving that could impact your future for many years to come.
That is particularly true if you have a previous impaired driving conviction on your record. Even if the previous offense involved alcohol and this one stems from a medication, you will likely face increased penalties.
A first offense carries between 72 hours and six months in jail, as well as fines of up to $2,000 and loss of the driver's license for between three and 12 months. Second offenses involve between 30 days and 12 months in jail, a fine of as much as $4,000 and loss of driving privileges for between six months and two years. A third offense could mean between two and 10 years in jail, a fine as high as $10,000 and loss of licensing for two years.
Anyone accused of driving while impaired by controlled substances, including prescribed medication, may want to talk with a criminal defense attorney about how to limit the impact of the charges on their life.