You are no doubt aware that the State of Texas takes the matter of driving while intoxicated (DWI) very seriously, but you may not realize that the laws related to driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) are just as harsh. If you have been charged with DUID, you have a lot to lose. Don’t wait to reach out for the professional legal counsel of an experienced Killeen DUID attorney.
There Is No Specific Legal Limit When It Comes to Drugs
The State of Texas – and every other state in the nation – employs a strict limit when it comes to the amount of alcohol in a driver’s system. This limit is set at .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC). While the chemical tests used – both breath and blood – are not without issues related to reliability, they are well-established and consistently employed in DWI cases.
However, there is no such standard when it comes to driving under the influence of drugs. In other words, you could be charged with DUID for having virtually any amount of a controlled substance in your bloodstream.
Even if you don’t use anything harder than over-the-counter medications, you’re not off the hook. Some medications can cause drowsiness and, as a result, can impair one’s ability to drive. If the drug involved is a prescription medication – even if the prescription is your own – or another illegal drug, the matter can be that much more serious.
You Don’t Have to Be Impaired to Be Charged
Texas takes a zero-tolerance stance when it comes to driving under the influence of controlled substances. The problem is that many drugs can leave trace amounts in your system for days after usage, which means that, even if you are completely sober, you could technically face a DUID charge.
Consider the following scenario – a motorist from a neighboring state in which recreational marijuana is legalized could face a DUID charge in Texas even if he or she hadn’t used the drug in days.
Clearly, DUID charges can be complicated and far more common than many people might think. A seasoned Killeen DUI attorney can help you navigate your charges and protect your rights throughout the process.
Drugs that Are Commonly Associated with DUID Charges
While many drugs can lead to DUID charges, the following substances are the most common:
Heroin and other opiates
Over-the-counter cold medications and sleep aids
The Penalties Associated with a Conviction Are Harsh
The fines and penalties associated with DUID convictions mirror the harsh penalties associated with DWI convictions. Consider the following consequences of a DUID conviction in Texas:
First offenses are generally charged as Class B misdemeanors, which carry jail sentences of up to 180 days and fines of up to $2,000 – along with a driver’s license suspension of 3 months to a year.
If you have a prior offense, the charge is upped to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a jail sentence of up to a year and fines of up to $4,000 – along with a driver’s license suspension of up to a year.
A third or subsequent charge is a third-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of from 2 to 10 years and fines of up to $10,000 – along with a driver’s license suspension of up to 2 years.
A charge with a child passenger who is under the age of 15 is a state jail felony, which carries a jail sentence of from 180 days to 2 years and fines of up to $10,000 – along with a driver’s license suspension of up to 2 years.
As the number of charges on your record increases, so do the fines and penalties, as well as the need to build a strong defense. Work closely with a Killeen DUI attorney to choose your defense strategy and protect your rights.
Texas’ Implied Consent Law
When you avail yourself of the privilege of driving in Texas, your consent to being tested for alcohol or drugs – via a breath, blood, urine, or another form of chemical test – is implied. This consent means that, if you refuse an officer’s request to be tested for purposes of determining impairment, you can face an automatic driver’s license suspension, and your refusal can be used against you.
When Is It Legal to Drive with Prescription Drugs in Your System?
Many prescription drugs have no bearing on your ability to drive, and it is perfectly legal to drive with them in your system. However, other prescription drugs can interfere with your ability to drive safely, and these can lead to charges.
For example, if you’re taking prescription narcotics for pain related to an injury, it’s perfectly legal to do so, but once you get behind the wheel, the legality of the situation changes. If the drug in question impairs your ability to drive in accordance with the law, you could face a DUID charge. But the matter goes further than this.
Even if the medication’s narcotic effect has worn off completely, the fact that it remains in your system can lead to a DUID charge. And some drugs take a considerable amount of time to leave the body. The best policy is being safe rather than sorry. If you’re taking a medication that causes you to feel drowsy or to experience any other narcotic effect, refrain from driving.
If You’ve Been Charged with a DUID
If you’re facing a DUID charge, it’s important to take the matter as seriously as the state does. While your case will be specific to the circumstances involved, there are steps everyone in your situation can take to help protect their rights and improve the outcomes of their cases. The most important step you can take is to work closely with a Killeen criminal defense attorney.
Seek Legal Guidance
The police are skilled at what they do, and they are likely to do what it takes to get a conviction whenever possible. However, you have important legal rights that are important to protect from the outset. You have the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent, and you are very well advised to invoke both of these rights from the get-go.
Too many people who are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs simply accept the legal consequences based on the mistaken belief that the outcome will be the same no matter what. On the contrary, a seasoned DUID attorney can help in all the following ways:
Gathering all the available evidence and putting together your strongest defense
Critically analyzing the integrity of the tests employed by the police as well as the test results, which can be swayed by a wide range of factors such as the officer’s level of experience, the storage and handling of the sample, and more
Helping you better understand your case and helping you make the right decisions for you throughout
Skillfully negotiating with the authorities for an advantageous case resolution, which could mean having the charge dropped altogether, having the charge reduced, or having the associated fines and penalties reduced
Know and Invoke Your Rights
Many people believe a DUID charge is equivalent to a conviction, but you are innocent until you are proven guilty – and the burden of proving your guilt rests with the authorities. Along the way – as mentioned – you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, and invoking these rights will serve you well.
The statements made by defendants often go on to harm their cases. In other words, you’re not going to talk yourself out of the charge, and deferring to your formidable DUID attorney is your best option. It’s also a good idea to stay off social media, which can be a treasure trove of information, while your case is pending.
Be on Time and Well Prepared
Depending on how your case proceeds, you may need to make more than one court appearance. Arriving on time, wearing appropriate clothing, and being well-groomed are all important to the outcome of your claim. As noted, you should take the charge against you just as seriously as the state does.
Remain on the Right Side of the Law
Now is no time to let your law-abiding tendencies lapse. Another DUID or DWI charge at this juncture can significantly increase the fines and penalties you face. Your dedicated DUID attorney will help you make the right decisions for you while your case proceeds. Depending on the circumstances, this may include seeking treatment for addiction.
Minding your P’s and Q’s while your case is pending is always in your best interest.
Bringing a Solid Defense
Your defense strategy will be unique to your case, but most defenses can be classified into several basic categories. To begin, just because you had a prescription medication in your system does not mean you were impaired. For example, if the drug doesn’t correlate with impairment, the charge of DUID won’t hold. Further, if you took the drug days prior to being charged, but you still test positive, impairment becomes difficult to prove.
Defense strategies can range from simple innocence to mistake of fact and beyond.
You Are Innocent
If you’ve been charged with DUID but didn’t take any medication that causes impairment, you are innocent of the charge. The police’s methods are not foolproof, and their conclusions are often in error. Your practiced DUID attorney will be well prepared to stand up for your innocence in the face of an erroneous charge.
There Was a Mistake of Fact
A mistake of fact – very generally – means that the accused didn’t intend to commit the crime in question, such as DUID, and that it occurred as a result of a mistake. For a mistake of fact defense to be effective, however, the mistake has to be one the court considers both reasonable and honest.
If, for example, the prescription medication that caused you to be impaired was a virtual duplicate of a daily vitamin you also take and you mistakenly interchanged them as a result of a highly specific situation, you may have a mistake of fact defense. It’s important to know, however, that simply being sloppy with your medications is unlikely to prevail.
The Stop Was Illegal
In order to pull you over in the first place, the police must have a reasonable suspicion either that you were engaging in an illegal activity or that you committed a crime. It doesn’t take much to drum up reasonable suspicion, but the police shouldn’t pull you over simply for following the rules of the road. All of the following behaviors tend to be enough for reasonable suspicion:
Drifting outside your lane
Failing to regulate your speed
Falling to dim your lights or failing to turn your lights on
Failing to use your turn indicators as needed
From here, the police need reasonable cause, which carries a higher burden of proof, to arrest you for DUID.
There Were Errors in Testing
The lab tests used for testing defendants in DUID cases are not without considerable problems of their own. Even minor errors in performing the tests, storing the samples, transporting the samples, and reporting the results can lead to gaping discrepancies that can skew a case.
Your focused DUID attorney will carefully evaluate the testing procedures and attendant results in your case in order to weed out any issues that could affect it.
It's Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen DUID Attorney
If you’ve been charged with DUID, you need to bring your strongest defense from the start, and for that, you need skilled legal guidance. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas, for decades – is a skilled DUID attorney with a wealth of impressive experience.
Mr. Pritchard recognizes how important the outcome of your case is to your future, and he’s standing by to help. Your case is important, so please don’t wait to reach out and contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 for more information about what we can do to help you today.