Drug DWIs Are On the Rise in Texas
In April 2017, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) released a comprehensive update of their 2015 report about drug use on our nation’s roadways, “Drug Impaired Driving: A Guide for States.” The report highlighted the first time that the number for drivers killed in crashes due to driving under the influence of a controlled substance was higher than the number of people killed for driving under the influence of alcohol.
According to the report, 43 percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug, while 37 percent tested above the legal limit for alcohol. “As drunk driving has declined, drugged driving has increased dramatically and many of today’s impaired drivers are combining two or more substances, which has a multiplicative effect on driver impairment,” said Responsibility.org President and CEO Ralph. S. Blackman in a GHSA press release.
A person commits the crime of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas if he or she is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place. Texas Penal Code § 49.01(2) defines intoxicated as meaning “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.”
DWI arrests where people were allegedly under the influence of a controlled substance carry the same penalties as traditional alcohol-related drunk driving charges. Evidence of impairment, however, can be more difficult for prosecutors to obtain with controlled substances.
Austin Drugged Driving Defense Lawyer
In most cases, drugged driving convictions result in the following penalties:
- First Offense — Class B misdemeanor punishable by fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, up to 100 hours of community service, up to one year driver’s license suspension, and annual Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Driver Responsibility Surcharge of at least $1,000 for three years;
- Second Offense — Class A misdemeanor punishable by fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, up to 200 hours of community service, up to two years suspension of driver’s license, and annual Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Driver Responsibility Surcharge of at least $1,500 for three years; and
- Third or Subsequent Offense — Third-degree felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000, to 10 years in prison, up to 1,000 hours of community service, up to two years suspension of driver’s license, and annual Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Driver Responsibility Surcharge of at least $1,500 for three years.
Unlike alcohol-related DWI arrests, which often involve alleged offenders submitting BAC samples through breath tests, police officers must rely on urine or blood tests to prove that a person was driving while under the influence of a controlled substance.
It is important to understand that testing positive for an illegal drug or prescription medication does not necessarily mean that a person was under the influence of that controlled substance at the time of the alleged offense.
If you were arrested for drugged driving anywhere in the greater Travis County area, it is in your best interest to quickly contact The Law Office of Kevin Bennett. Austin criminal defense attorney Kevin Bennett defends individuals all over Central Texas, including Bee Cave, Lakeway, Sunset Valley, Lago Vista, West Lake Hills, Pflugerville, and several other local areas.