Woodley & Dudley

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When taking your medicine leads to DWI charges

Texas law prohibits driving while in a condition of intoxication due to consuming a substance that affects physical or mental function. While you may know you can face charges if you drive after taking illegal drugs or drinking too much, a DWI charge can also involve someone who just took medication according to a valid prescription.

Some types of medications have a reputation for causing side effects that impair driving. These include painkillers, allergy medications, anxiety drugs, antidepressants and hypertension drugs. Both over-the-counter and prescription drugs can lead to impairment and, therefore, DWI charges.

Important precautions

It is important to stay safe and make sure your medication regimen does not cause you to drive unsafely. If your doctor prescribes a new medication, changes the dosage or alters instructions on taking your meds, be sure to fully discuss potential side effects or interactions with other medications you take.

Because rare side effects can occur, which your doctor may not be able to predict, it is prudent to avoid driving until you have taken the new drug a few times and know the effect it has on you. For many medications, you should also avoid consuming even very small amounts of alcohol that would normally fall well below the legal limit and would not affect your driving.

Taking medicine does not necessarily impair driving

That said, just because you took medicine that sometimes impairs some people does not mean the medication impaired you. For DWI charges to stick, it must be the substance that impaired you, not your medical condition or other factors you could not control.

When making the traffic stop, police officers consider your driving behavior, your demeanor, your sobriety test results and any information you provide to decide whether to arrest you for DWI. After the arrest, they may use chemical tests to check for traces of drugs in your system. If they do find them, they still have to prove the medication impaired you at the time of the stop.

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