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Can I Win A Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Charge?
Perhaps one of man’s greatest fears is being in jail. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be surprisingly common. And while these charges are avoidable, they can indeed happen to anyone at any time. In Texas, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) the term they use for what is commonly called a DUI in most areas in the United States refers not only to driving after drinking alcohol but also to drugged driving.
Especially for first-timers, facing a drug-related DUI charge can be a massive challenge to take on. It is quite understandable for some to consider self-representation, plead guilty and enter into a plea bargaining agreement to quickly resolve the case and the stress they bring on, lessen potential penalties, and avoid jail. Consulting a reliable criminal defense law firm may be furthest from your mind.
However, this may not be the best course of action, especially during the initial stages of the drug-related DUI charge. If you are charged with a drug-related DUI in Texas, an experienced Sugar Land DUI lawyer from the Law Office of Annie Scott can help you strategize and represent you in this drug-related DUI case.
Pleading guilty and not contesting a drug-related DUI case has its merits and could be an option after careful evaluation. However, it is important to plead not guilty first, get the services of a good DUI attorney, let him/her evaluate your case, craft a winning strategy, and go on from there. Entering into a plea bargain can be done anytime before the verdict; it is ideal to weigh in all possible defenses first before doing this route.
Drug-related DUI/DWI Laws in Texas: Texas Penal Code 49.04
Texas laws prohibit driving under the influence of any drug, including prescription medicines. It doesn’t matter if you hold a valid prescription for the drug; operating a motor vehicle after taking a prescription drug that interfered with your ability to safely drive a vehicle is punishable by law.
Texas Penal Code 49.04 defines intoxication as the “loss of the normal use of physical or mental faculties from any substance, including alcohol, drugs, dangerous drugs or a combination of substances.”
The law further defines the legal limits of intoxication to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of anything lower than 0.08%.
A DWI can be charged to anyone caught driving under the influence of any substance that impacts his/her faculties, regardless of the drug or alcohol which was legally obtained.
Further, carrying an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, regardless of whether you have imbibed alcohol, is also illegal under Texas open container laws.
Drug-related DUI/DWI Penalties
As with most criminal cases, first offenses hold lighter penalties. There are various factors in play when handing out penalties, however, the usual punishments after conviction are the following:
For a first offense DUI/DWI
- Up to $2,000 in fines
- Up to 180 days in county jail with three mandatory days
- Suspension of driver’s license for up to a year
- Up to $4,000 fines
- 30 days to a year in county jail
- Suspension of driver’s license for up to two years
- $10,000 in fines
- Two to 10 years in state prison
- Suspension of driver’s license for up to two years
The state of Texas also imposes a state fine of $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000, which are assessed upon conviction. Another aggravating factor that could impact penalties is when you were caught driving under the influence with a passenger under the age of 15. In this case, you will also be charged with child endangerment, be fined up to $10,000, jail time up to two years, and further suspension of your driver’s license for another 180 days. Some other factors to consider include your submission to a blood alcohol concentration test and if you register a BAC of .15% or more.
Alcohol-related DUIs vs Drug-Related DUIs
No matter where you are charged in the United States, the difference between the nature of having alcohol and drugs in your system severely impacts your case. How long traces of alcohol and drugs stay in your system are different.
Alcohol cannot be detected in your system after a few hours. For drugs, however, it can take weeks or months.
On top of that, the law has set legal limits for alcohol in your system. Such is not the case for drugs. Any amount of drugs or their metabolite in your system can make your case a drug-related DUI/DWI.
What can make the difference in a trial is if the drugs in your system have impaired your driving. The prosecution holds the burden of proving beyond unreasonable doubt that you indeed had impaired driving skills, committed reckless driving or speeding, and/or committed traffic violations.
Possible Defenses for Drug-related DUI/DWI
Thus the most important question. Can I Win A Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Charge? This depends on your circumstances but the most important factor for a favorable outcome is having a competent Texas attorney at your side who knows local laws, rules, and procedures. This in-depth knowledge will allow your DUI/DWI attorney to build a solid defense.
Most DUI/DWI cases get dismissed if the prosecution was not able to bring together a well-grounded case. Your attorney will know if such is the situation.
The prosecution, the police, and other law enforcers involved are bound by a strict set of rules and procedures. Should any of the chain of processes be neglected or violated, the case goes down with it. Examples of violations could happen during the collection, storage, and/or analysis of blood and/or urine samples. Even the DUI stop, the time when you are pulled over must meet certain conditions. Was the stop valid? Did the officer have justified reasons for asking you to stop? Did your arresting officer follow protocol down to a T?
State laws also specify periodic maintenance of equipment used for chemical tests. Any neglect or untimely upkeep could invalidate the results.
Can the prosecution prove that your driving was impaired? Were you aware of your rights when you were pulled over or when you were arrested?
These are just some of the possible defenses your lawyer can build on. Discussing your circumstances with your lawyer is recommended.
When To Consider Plea Bargaining
Should you find court costs too high and you don’t mind the permanent record, then a plea bargain can be considered. Also, if you and your lawyer agree that the prosecution has a strong case against you and you have a small chance of winning should you go into trial, then, a plea bargain could be the better option. In this case, it is best to minimize the possible penalties through plea bargaining.
Seek Expert Legal Advice
Given this, it is never wise to evaluate your case on your own. Seek expert advice. Texas criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Annie Scott have a strong reputation in handling DUI/DWI cases.
If you have been charged for driving under the influence whether for alcohol, drugs, or both, take the load off your chest and book your appointment as soon as you can.