Many people often equate driving under the influence solely with intoxication by alcohol. While DWI is often alcohol related, the term DWI can also refer to an individual who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance or a prescription medication or some combination of either of these.
Drugs such as Ambien, Hydrocodone, Xanax and other drugs that are prescribed to assist with sleep disorders, anxiety and/or pain can inhibit your senses and slow your reaction time.
Many prescription drugs come with warning labels telling you not to drive while under the influence of the drug. Therefore, there are an increasing number of DWI cases that involve drivers under the influence of legally prescribed medications.
Consequences of Drug-Related DWI
DWI due to prescription drugs can be just as serious as a DWI due to alcohol. A first-time DWI is a class B misdemeanor. Subsequent DWIs can be charged as either a class A misdemeanor or a felony charge.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a 2009 study found that 18% of fatally-injured drivers tested positive for at least one illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter drug. The duration and intensity of a drug’s effects depend on various factors, including the dosage, the individual’s metabolism, frequency of drug use and the presence of other drugs.
Although the concentration of a particular drug in a blood sample provides important information, it should be considered in conjunction with reports of driving behavior, psychological signs and other data. The reality is that the government experts in the lab despite testing the blood and getting results ultimately have very little ability to understand or quantify the effects that the drugs have that relate to driving. These cases need to be fought by lawyers that understand the science.
Testing for Drugs in a DWI Case
In the DWI context there are several ways to test for drugs. The most frequent tests require blood and urine, however some states make provisions for the use of saliva. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. Interpretation of toxicology results is compounded by a number of factors that include multiple drug use, history of drug use, overall health, metabolism, and an individual’s sensitivity, response and withdrawal.
The presence of a drug alone in a person’s blood or urine does not necessarily mean that he/she is impaired. Other information such as appearance, behavior, performance on field sobriety tests, DRE evaluation, or driving behavior is also important.
A report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which was also released in 2004, showed multiple problems related to the processing of drug-impaired driving cases through the criminal justice system. One of them was the fact that, for many drugs, there is no clear correlation between the drug’s concentration in a driver’s blood and impairment. Because it is more difficult to prove an individual was impaired by drugs while driving, an experienced and skilled attorney will be able to assist in your defense.
Do not trust the government’s conclusion, they are way beyond their depth on these concepts.
Reach Out to Us for Help
If you have been charged with DWI in Galveston or surrounding areas and your case involves being “under the influence” of a prescription drug, contact our experienced attorneys. At The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we have skilled attorneys who have handled hundreds of DWI cases.
Attorney Tad Nelson is a board certified criminal attorney with years of experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney.
Both Tad Nelson & Amber Spurlock are have been designated Lawyer/Scientist by the ACS/CHAL. They both understand the science of Driving Under the Influence charges! Contact our office to talk about your case today.