Driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges are not just limited to alcohol or illicit drugs. In Texas, you can also face serious legal consequences if you are found operating a vehicle while impaired by prescription medication. The law firm of Shane Phelps, specializing in criminal defense, provides an in-depth understanding of this complex issue.
However, it is important to realize that even legitimate use of prescribed medication can lead to legal trouble if it impairs your ability to drive safely.
Prescription Drugs and DWI Charges
Prescribed medications are classified as controlled substances under state law. This means that if you are found to be under the influence of these substances while driving, you could potentially face a DWI charge.
The penalties for prescription drug crimes can be severe, often leading to long prison sentences, costly fines, and a permanent mark on your criminal record. For example, possession of a Penalty Group 1 narcotic can result in a state jail felony, with penalties ranging from up to two years in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000 to a lifetime prison term.
The Effects of Medication
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) emphasizes the hazards associated with driving under the influence of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. While it is widely recognized that driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal, the dangers of operating a vehicle under the influence of legal medications are less well-known.
Prescription drugs such as antidepressants, opioids, and other substances can impair a driver's judgment, coordination, and reaction time, making it unsafe to drive. The same applies to numerous OTC medications, including cold and allergy medicines, sleep aids, and more. These can cause side effects like drowsiness, nausea, and blurred vision, which can significantly impair a person's ability to drive safely.
Furthermore, even if a single medication does not cause impairment on its own, combining it with another medication or alcohol can lead to significant impairment. The NHTSA urges individuals to refrain from driving until they understand the impact a new or higher dose of any medication will have on their ability to operate a vehicle safely. Warnings against "operating heavy machinery" on medication labels should be taken seriously, as they include driving vehicles.
Prescription Drug Fraud
Prescription drug fraud is another serious offense that can lead to harsh penalties. This crime involves forging or altering a doctor's note to obtain prescription medication. If the drug involved is a Penalty Group 1 controlled substance, the crime is considered a second-degree felony. If the drug is a Penalty Group 3 controlled substance, the crime is a third-degree felony.
The Importance of Legal Representation
Given the complexity and severity of these charges, it is crucial to seek experienced and aggressive legal representation if charged with a prescription drug crime. Attorney Shane Phelps, a Board-Certified Criminal Law Specialist, and former prosecutor, is well-versed in defending clients against such charges.
While using prescription medication is often necessary for health reasons, it is essential to understand the potential legal implications if these substances affect your driving ability. If you find yourself facing a DWI charge related to prescription drugs, don't hesitate to contact our skilled and experienced defense lawyer today.