Most people regard a DWI as the result of driving when under the influence of illegal substances. Drugs like cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine could lead to a DWI charge, but so can prescription pain killers, sleeping aids and other medications.
It is not a crime to drive while taking a legally prescribed medication, but you must maintain the safe and legal operation of a vehicle to avoid a DWI charge.
Driving while under the influence
Intoxication can occur from taking prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, alcohol or illegal drugs. Impairment is typically determined by the behaviors exhibited while on the road or in the vehicle, which leads to a traffic stop. According to Texas law, intoxicated is a condition where the individual does not have the capacity to use normal mental or physical faculties on account of:
- A controlled substance
- A drug
- A dangerous drug
- Combination of two or more prior mentioned substances
- Any other substance in the body
The specific language of this law includes both over-the-counter medications, as well as prescription drugs.
Determining the charge
If a prescription drug causes impairment, the officer is able to ask questions concerning any medications consumed with regard to the quantity and timeline for taking the medication as well as request to see the prescription for the medication. If there is cause for a charge, the officer could request a blood sample to support the charge.
Law enforcement pays close attention to the use of medications like Valium, Vicodin, Xanax, Ambien and Oxycontin. While legal, these prescription drugs could cause significant impairment when in a person’s system.