Does Drug Use and Driving Count as a DWI?

Does Drug Use and Driving Count as a DWI?

DWI charges are typically associated with alcohol. Does this charge apply to being intoxicated by drugs, too?

When many people think about the crime of driving while intoxicated, they often think of people that drive while they are under the influence of alcohol. However, there are other substances, such as drugs, that can result in a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge, as well. These charges are sometimes known as driving while intoxicated by drugs (DWID).

Individuals convicted on DWID charges face the same serious penalties as a DWI charge that involves alcohol. Like any DWI charge, individuals convicted are often innocent of the crime. If you have been charged with a DWID, it is important that you speak to a Travis County criminal defense attorney that can help you beat the charges.

What is a DWI?

According to the Texas Penal Code, a DWI occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle in a public place while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a controlled substance. This definition includes being under the influence of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications if they impair a person’s ability to drive in a reasonable and safe manner.

The penalties associated with a DWI are severe, even when a person is intoxicated by drugs and not alcohol. A conviction for a first offense can include a maximum fine of $2,000 or three to 180 days in jail. If you are convicted of a first offense, you will also lose your license for up to one year and must pay a fee in order to have your license reinstated. Fines, jail time, and the length of license suspensions all increase with subsequent convictions.

Differences Between DWI and DWID

Although you will face the same penalties of a DWI conviction if you are convicted of a DWID, there are differences between the two. One of the main differences is that unlike alcohol, there is no way to test the level of drugs in a person’s system.

THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, can remain in a person’s system for up to 30 days. Cocaine can remain in a person’s system for up to two days. Even though the person is no longer intoxicated by these drugs, the substances will still show up in a drug test.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has written a report to Congress stating there is no way to determine dosage limits that elevate a person’s risk of getting into a car accident. Due to this, law enforcement will rely mainly on field sobriety tests to determine if someone is intoxicated by drugs while driving.

Defenses to DWID

Although law enforcement may use field sobriety tests to determine if a person is intoxicated by drugs while driving, these tests are highly unreliable. They are completely subjective and rely on a police officer’s personal opinion instead of scientific fact. This makes them very easy to challenge and use as a defense in court.

Similar to when a police officer suspects someone of driving while intoxicated by alcohol, law enforcement must also have reasonable suspicion to pull you over for a DWID. This means they must have observed dangerous driving behavior such as swerving in and out of lanes, speeding recklessly, or other dangerous behavior. If there was no reasonable suspicion, any evidence obtained after the traffic stop is inadmissible in court.

These are only two defenses used in DWID cases, although they are some of the most common. Experienced criminal defense attorneys are familiar with the many defenses available and can determine which one is best for your case.

Call Our Travis County Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated by drugs, you need a solid legal defense. At Granger and Mueller, PC, our experienced Austin criminal defense attorneys know the strategies to use to give you the best chance of a positive outcome in your case. Call us today at (512) 474-9999 to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys.