DWI: It’s not just for alcohol anymore
Don’t Drink and Drive. We have all heard it a million times. It’s snappy. It’s easy to remember. But from a legal perspective, it’s woefully incomplete. However, “Don’t Drink or Take Impairing Levels of Illegal Street Drugs, Federally-Prescribed Medications, Over the Counter Medications, or Other Substances or Mix the Aforementioned Substances Together and Drive” doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker as nicely.
The “I” in DWI is Intoxication. And in Texas, that is defined as “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 by having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
It’s not so simple as to say “Don’t Drink and Drive”. What this means is that if you are planning on driving, you have to guard against becoming intoxicated (what I’ll call being “not normal”) by more than just alcohol. Certainly, controlled substances (illegal narcotics) can have an impairing effect. But even if you are “not normal” because you’ve taken legally prescribed medicine, or even over the counter medicine, you are still considered intoxicated under Texas law.
Another subtle danger that the law on intoxication speaks to is the “combination of two or more” substances like illegal drugs plus alcohol or prescription medications. Many drugs, legal or otherwise, can have what is known as a synergistic effect where the two drugs taken together (or with alcohol) can have a stronger effect than when taken apart. They can enhance and multiply the effects of each other. Again, this doesn’t have to be street drugs we are talking about. Is your over the counter cough medicine acting synergistically with your prescribed seasonal allergy meds, or your antidepressants, or your blood thinners? Better find out before you get behind the wheel.
Remember, DWI is not an “intent crime”. The State of Texas does not have to prove that you intended to drive while intoxicated to convict you. They only have to be able to prove that you did. So even if the impairment is accidental, you may still be held criminally liable. Know your limits. Know what you put into your body. And always, drive safe.