Driving while intoxicated does not refer only to alcohol. In Texas, you can be arrested for a DWI if you are also under the influence of controlled substances. According to the definition of intoxication per § 49.01(2)(a) of the Penal Code, intoxication is
not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; OR (b) having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more.
Attorney Carl Ceder represents clients in and around the greater Plano TX metro area. He believes informed clients make the best decisions for themselves. If you have been arrested for a DWI because the police believed you were under the influence of a controlled substance, below is an overview of what this means and how you may be able to fight the charge. If you want answers related to your specific case, contact Carl Ceder today at 469-900-0000.
What are Controlled Substances?
Controlled substances are drugs placed in Schedules I through V designed by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to identify the drug's medical value and risk of abuse. The use and distribution of controlled drugs are tightly controlled by the government. The Texas State Board of Pharmacy provides examples of drugs in these schedules as follows:
Schedule I — drugs with a high abuse risk. These drugs have NO safe, accepted medical use in the United States. Some examples are heroin, marijuana, LSD, PCP, and crack cocaine.
Schedule II — drugs with a high abuse risk, but also have safe and accepted medical uses in the United States. These drugs can cause severe psychological or physical dependence. Schedule II drugs include certain narcotic, stimulant, and depressant drugs. Some examples are morphine, cocaine, oxycodone (Percodan®), methylphenidate (Ritalin®), and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®).
Schedule III, IV, or V — drugs with an abuse risk less than Schedule II. These drugs also have safe and accepted medical uses in the United States. Schedule III, IV, or V drugs include those containing smaller amounts of certain narcotic and non-narcotic drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, tranquilizers, sedatives, stimulants, and non-narcotic analgesics. Some examples are acetaminophen with codeine (Tylenol® No.3), paregoric, diazepam (Valium®), alprazolam (Xanax®), propoxyphene (Darvon®), and pentazocine (Talwin®).
As an additional note, in Texas, these drugs are placed in Penalty Groups 1, 1-A, 2, 2-A, 3, or 4, with Group 1 involving a high risk of abuse/addiction and no medical value. The groups are similar but not exactly the same as the Federal Schedules and are placed in these groups for the purpose of allocating penalties if convicted of a drug crime.
Almost all illegal drugs in the State of Texas are controlled substances, but all controlled substances are not necessarily illegal drugs. Prescription drugs are controlled substances, too. Further, regardless of whether or not they are addictive or have a medical use, any of these drugs can impair your faculties and affect your driving. As such, you can still be charged with a DWI if the officer believes you are under the influence of (1) an illegal drug; or (2) a drug that has impaired your faculties.
Common prescription pills associated with DWIs in Texas include:
Common street drugs associated with DWIs in Texas include:
How does a Texas police officer determine if you are under the influence of controlled substances while driving?
A police officer may suspect you of driving while intoxicated by drugs for a number of reasons, like:
- there is a certain odor on your person or in the vehicle
- there is drug paraphernalia in plain sight in the vehicle
- your behavior is indicative of being under the influence of a substance
- you fail the field sobriety tests
- you admit to taking drugs, legal or not.
When the officer suspects you are intoxicated by drugs, he or she may request a blood sample. This blood sample will be tested controlled substances, usually, through a process known as gas chromatography – your blood sample is compared to a control blood sample.
In some circumstances, a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) may be called to the scene to conduct a drug evaluation process. These are officers who have allegedly been trained and certified in drug recognition. There is a 12-step process they undertake to determine if a person is under the influence of drugs, namely:
- breath alcohol test
- interview with the arresting officer
- preliminary examination
- eye examination
- divided attention psychophysical tests
- examination of vital signs
- darkroom examinations
- examination for muscle tone
- examination for injection sites
- observations and suspect's statements
- evaluators opinion
- toxicological examination.
How do you defend against a controlled substance DWI charge in Plano, Texas?
A controlled substance DWI charge in Plano, Texas, can be challenged successfully. Much of the time, a good DWI defense depends on the attorney you hire. That attorney should investigate the facts and circumstances and develop a strategy based on the findings. The attorney, however, must have a thorough technical understanding of things like blood tests and the drug evaluation process.
For example, with regard to blood tests, only certain individuals can draw your blood. Further, under § 724.013 of the Texas Transportation Code, if you refuse to give a blood sample, the officer will have to obtain a warrant and that warrant must be executed lawfully. If an untrained person takes your blood or a warrant is improperly obtained or administered, the evidence can be suppressed.
Even more: blood tests can produce inaccurate results if there are problems with the handling or testing of the blood sample. A skilled DWI defense attorney will be able to identify these types of situations.
As for DREs, these individuals, too, must be trained and certified. Even so, the evaluation process is flawed and highly subjective, making it vulnerable to successful challenges.
What are the penalties in Texas for a conviction of DWI for controlled substances?
The penalties for a controlled substance DWI are the same as a DWI involving alcohol. These crimes are typically Class B misdemeanors that carry up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If there are aggravating circumstances, then the classification of the offense may increase as will the penalties if convicted.
The main difference between drug and alcohol DWIs is that additional charges may be brought if it's a controlled substance DWI. For example, you can also be charged with drug possession if drugs are found on your person or in the vehicle. That's when the penalty groups kick in -- sentencing will be in accordance with the penalty group to which the drug found on your person or in your vehicle belongs.
Contact an Aggressive Controlled Substance DWI Defense Attorney in Plano, TX
If you have been arrested for a controlled substance DWI in Plano, Texas, DWI defense attorney Carl Ceder is the one to call. He knows the law, the courts, and the technical aspects of DWI testing. He will develop a defense strategy based on facts, circumstances, and the law. Contact Carl Ceder today either online or at 469-900-0000.