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  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

How to Fight DUI Charge for Prescription Drugs

Many people are aware that driving while high on an illicit substance can result in a charge of driving under the influence (DUI). This type of violation might land a person in jail for months and cost them hundreds of dollars in fines. Many people are unaware, however, that driving after taking over-the-counter medicine might result in a similar legal situation. Here are several explanations for fighting a prescription medication DUI charge.

There are at least two conceivable justifications for driving while under the influence of prescribed medicine. The first possibility is that an individual mixed two pills. This is a regular occurrence because many drugs look the same, and people frequently misread or neglect to read the label before taking the wrong medication.

As a result, they may experience a variety of unanticipated side effects that impair their ability to operate a vehicle. A lawyer may be able to show that the individual intended to use something else, allowing them to avoid a DUI prosecution.

There's also the more dangerous potential that an individual wasn't aware that they were being drugged while driving. Too many people have had the disturbing and disorienting experience of being "roofied," or having another substance slipped by a stranger. While locating and convicting the person found guilty is a legal matter in and of itself, it can be used as a defense argument in a DUI prosecution if a defense attorney can prove it.

DUI Laws that Apply to Prescription and Legal Drug Use

DUI Laws that Apply to Prescription and Legal Drug Use

DUI rules are divided into two categories: "per se" and "impaired."

Per Se DUI Laws

An individual driving with a specified percentage of an illegal substance in their system or a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or above is illegal under per se regulations. Per se, DUI rules do not apply to most legal substances and medications.

However, in a few jurisdictions where marijuana usage is legal, such as Washington and Nevada, there are per se laws, making it illegal to drive with a particular quantity of THC (the psychoactive element in marijuana) in someone's system.

Impairment DUI Laws

A DUI charge stemming from lawful drug or prescription use is usually predicated on the driver's genuine impairment. In other words, the prosecution must show that the driver was intoxicated as a result of the medication or narcotic consumed.

As in most places, a minor intoxication isn't enough; the prosecution must establish the driver was impaired to the point of being unable to drive safely. (However, in some places, such as New York and Colorado, driving while even slightly intoxicated is banned.)

Prosecutors may use the arresting officer's evidence on the motorist's physical appearance, driving style, and field sobriety test (FST) results to prove an impaired DUI.

Symptoms of Prescription Medication

In most cases, intoxication has obvious evidence that the driver has been drinking, but medicines taken on the recommendation of a doctor often have unique warning signs, symptoms, or visible side effects.

Drowsiness can be a very evident side effect in most cases. Even though these prescriptions state that a person should not operate machinery while taking them, some people believe that transportation is important and that they are not affected by the drugs, so they decide to drive.

When making these trips, the individual driving and taking the medication may exhibit signs of drowsiness such as swerving, colliding, making judgment errors, and failing to notice objects or pedestrians clearly. Essentially, when a drive is necessary, taking medicine that produces these side effects should be avoided, and alternative transportation should be used instead.

Other symptoms include headaches, aches and pains, digestive problems, blurred vision, and other related conditions. These side effects might cause a driver to collide with an object or another vehicle. This could result in a police officer pulling them over and possibly arresting them. Due to drug impairment, the motorist may be charged with DUI offenses based on field sobriety tests and any chemical testing obtained.

Chemical tests, on the other hand, may be invalid if no alcohol or illegal drugs are found in the driver's system.

What Prescription Drugs Do Impair Driving?

Even if an individual has a verified serious medical condition and a legitimate prescription, they might be charged with a prescription drug DWI offense if they were affected by the prescription drugs.

The following are some of the most prevalent medications that can affect an individual's driving ability:

Antidepressants. Antidepressants are used by many Americans to treat dysthymia and ease long-term symptoms of persistent depression (chronic depressive disorder). Furthermore, antidepressants have various effects on different people. While some antidepressants (such as Trazodone and Nefazodone) might make a person drowsy and slow their reaction time, others (such as Prozac, Paxil, etc.) can cause sleeplessness and fatigue.

Medication for pain relief. Pain relievers, sometimes known as painkillers, are medications that help patients ease and eliminate pain. Opioids, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, etc., can produce tiredness, sedation, nausea, disorientation, and dizziness, all of which might impair a driver's ability to drive safely.

Muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications. Due to their tranquilizing impact, these two classes of prescription drugs, which include Xanax and Valium, can impair a driver's judgment and negatively alter reaction times.

Products containing cannabidiol (CBD). Only one CBD product, Epidiolex, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The CBD prescription drug has been licensed by the FDA for the treatment of seizures caused by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome. CBD products are known to cause sedation, tiredness, and lethargy, according to the FDA, which is why the agency recommends drivers to exercise caution when using cannabidiol products.

If an individual plans to operate a vehicle, they should exercise extreme caution when using any of the above-mentioned medication or over-the-counter drugs. In Texas, drivers who drive while under the influence of legal prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications can be prosecuted with a Texas DWI.

Texas DWI Law for Prescription Drugs

Regarding DWI law in the United States, there is no limit to determining drug intoxication. This is in contrast to drinking alcohol right before driving, which is lawful as long as the driver's blood alcohol content level is less than 0.08 percent.

Because there is no legal limit for prescription medication under DWI legislation, it is up to the police officer to question the motorist, provide sobriety tests, and determine whether the driver is in violation of Texas law.

The police officer's limited understanding of a driver's response to a particular prescription drug and the overall impact such a drug will have on that person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle might make this approach subjective.

It's vital to remember that in Texas, a DWI drug conviction for the use of authorized prescription medications carries the same consequences as a DWI for the use of marijuana. A DWI case is often classified as a Class B misdemeanor.

First-time offenders face a punishment of up to $2,000, three to 180 days in jail, a year without a driver's license, and a $2,000 yearly charge for the next three years in order to keep their driver's license.

Second-time DWI offenders can pay a penalty of up to $4,000, a year in jail, a two-year suspension of their driver's license, and a $2,000 yearly fine for three years to keep their driver's license. Third-time DWI offenders face up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, a two-year license suspension, and a $2,000 yearly charge for three years to keep their driver's license.

It should go without saying, then, that a DWI conviction has substantial financial and legal repercussions for a driver. For those who have simply no idea what DWI is, you can familiarize yourself with what happens when you get a DWI in Texas to get started.

Challenging a Prescription Drug DUI Charge

The typical defense to a DUI allegation is to offer harmless reasons for observations that the arresting officer attributed to intoxication. To justify poor sobriety test performance, a motorist could show evidence of physical limitations. Alternatively, a driver could claim that he or she appeared intoxicated due to anxiousness or mental distress.

However, a few states allow an extra defense for drivers charged with driving under the influence of prescription drugs. A driver can beat a DUI accusation in these states—which include Arizona, Ohio, Iowa, Louisiana, and North Dakota—by establishing that he or she was impaired due to a drug taken as prescribed by a doctor.

Even in jurisdictions where a prescription medication defense does not exist, proof that the driver's intoxication was caused by a drug prescribed by a doctor could aid in plea negotiations or be deemed a mitigating circumstance justifying lenient penalties.


An arrest for DWI with prescription medicines is likely to begin similarly to an arrest for DWI involving alcohol. The police may pull an individual over because they've broken the law or appear to be driving recklessly. During the stop, the officer will examine their appearance and behavior for signs of impairment. In cases of Texas DWI involving prescription medicines, the following evidence may be used:

  • The defendant confessed to using prescription drugs;

  • Officer testified that the defendant appeared dazed or unconscious;

  • Observations from a sobriety test in the field; and

  • The results of a drug test revealed the presence of narcotics in the blood.

An individual can't get out of a DWI arrest by claiming that the substance was legally prescribed to them by a doctor. If a prescription medication causes them to become legally intoxicated, they may be held liable if they drive while intoxicated, endangering themselves and others.

Prosecution Problems

Even with a blood test, demonstrating that a driver is using prescribed medicines instead of illegal substances or alcohol might be challenging. While some people show evidence of impairment, others show no signs at all, other than a minor hiccup while driving.

There are currently no well-developed methods for testing a driver for a variety of prescription medicines, such as Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Percocet, etc. It's usually difficult to reveal a quantifiable level of concentration in the blood, especially when there's a long period between when the medication was taken and when it's tested. Furthermore, it is important to be able to explain impairment at the time of driving.

Essentially, for a conviction to occur, the prosecuting attorney must prove his or her case to the court or jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The arresting officer's judgments of the defending party's condition at the time of arrest determine whether the case will succeed or fail.

This is owing to the difficulties in accessing a blood alcohol consumption content or illegal substance concentration level. Prescription medications require a doctor's approval and are not illegal. As a result, the case is often decided by how impaired the motorist was and how convincing the law enforcement officer was during the testimony.

Defensive Strategy

Defensive Strategy

The defending party should quickly hire a lawyer from a good Fort Worth TX DWI law firm to develop a defense plan to counter the prosecution's case of DUI for a drug-related offense. One method could be to demonstrate that the person was not impaired while driving. When the arresting officer pulled him over, he or she may have been behaving normally.

Another option is to challenge the results of the field sobriety tests. In many cases, these tests are conducted in bad lighting, with distractions, or with the driver having an issue taking them. Some tests necessitate balance, and some people struggle with them often.

If the arresting officer claims that the prescribed drugs were being abused, it could be argued that the right dosage was used. This can be demonstrated by exposing how much was taken and how many pills are left in the bottle, with or without refilling it. Having a lawyer on hand, the defending party can come up with a variety of additional defenses to question or defend the person charged with DUI.

Contacting a DUI Defense Attorney

A conviction for DWI while under the influence of prescription medicine carries the same penalties as a conviction for DWI while under the influence of any other substance. The offices of Sparks Law Firm can challenge the claim that an individual was legally intoxicated. Our attorneys also help with any type of DWI-related cases such as helping clients understand what is a 3rd degree DWI and the penalties that follow it. People may call (817) 334-0300 to schedule a free consultation and experience an excellent attorney-client relationship.


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