Drug Impairment

Law enforcement and county or district attorneys use many tactics to determine whether a person is intoxicated or not. However, when it comes to drug impairment law enforcement has fewer options. Although there is no standardized way to calculate drug impairment, you can still be arrested for driving a vehicle while under the influence drugs.   

Law enforcement is now training officers to become experts in drug recognition. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has created a training curriculum that focuses on spotting signs of drug impairment. With these added resources, police officers are on high alert for those driving impaired on drugs.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI, it’s important that you seek trusted legal representation. 

DWI Attorney for Drug Impaired Driving Charges in Brownsville, Texas

Have you been accused of driving while impaired on drugs? Were you subject to physical or chemical testing that you believe is incorrect? A skilled attorney can help you navigate your charges and uncover all available legal options for you. 

Attorney Johnathan Gracia is experienced in Texas criminal courts. He has defended his clients of DWIs and DUIDs (drug impaired driving) in the Cameron County area for years. Find an attorney who is compassionate with clients and aggressive in the courtroom at The Gracia Law Firm. 

Call us today at (956) 504-2211 to schedule a free consultation today. The Gracia Law Firm accepts clients throughout the greater Brownsville area including San Benito, La Feria, Palm Valley, and Harlingen.

Overview of Drug Impairment in Texas


Texas Driving While Impaired Laws

Texas law states it’s illegal to drive a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The law interprets a state of impairment as having difficulty or being unable to retain normal use of both physical and mental faculties due to drugs or alcohol. 

For alcohol, the law uses a standardized blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.8 to measure impairment. However, for drugs such as marijuana there is no standardized measurement. No test can conclusively detect impairment by drugs. Instead law enforcement and the prosecution use field sobriety tests, chemical testing, and additional objective evidence to obtain a conviction. 


Texas Penalties for Driving Impaired on Drugs

The penalties for driving impaired on drugs is the same as a DWI. In some cases, you may have possession charges added if the controlled substance is on your person during the offense. The following are the penalties for driving impaired while on drugs in Texas.

First Offense

  • Class B misdemeanor
    • Punishable with a minimum term of 72 hours in jail and a maximum f 180 days in jail, with a possible fine of up to $2,000.

Second Offense

  • Class A misdemeanor
    • Punishable by a minimum of 30 days in jail and a maximum of up to 12 months in jail, with a fine of up to $4,000. 

Third or Subsequent Offense

  • Third-degree felony
    • Punishable by a minimum of two years in prison and a maximum of ten years in prison, with a fine of up to $10,000. 

In addition to these statutory penalties, a person convicted of a DWI may also be required to do the following:  

  • Suspended license;
  • Community service;
  • Drug and alcohol evaluation;
  • If needed, completion of a court-ordered program;
  • Annual surcharges by the Texas Department of Public Safety; and
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device.

Drug Recognition Experts

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has formulated a new program to combat impaired drivers. The program offers a curriculum that teaches officers how to identify drivers impaired by drugs. Officers who have completed the program can gain the title of Drug Recognition Expert (DRE).

There is no scientific or medical basis for the DRE process. The program was created by two Los Angeles cops without any studies to confirm their evidence. Despite this, the prosecution may still try to use the evidence obtained in a DRE evaluation. It’s important to remember that you are not required to submit to any testing by law enforcement. You may still be arrested for a DWI, but the prosecution cannot use any DRE or other tests in your DWI trial. 

Drug recognition experts uses a standardized and systematic 12-step evaluation to analyze the physical and mental state of a driver pulled over for a DWI. These steps include: 

  • Standard breath-alcohol test;
  • Interview with the driver to gain insight on their current state;
  • A preliminary examination that includes questions and eye-tracking exercises;
  • Examination of the eyes using three tests: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Vertical Gaze Nystagmus (VGN), and Lack of Convergence (LOC).
  • Using field sobriety tests such as the Romberg Balance, walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and the finger-to-nose.
  • Examining vital signs such as body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, etc.
  • Assessing the driver’s pupil size by putting them in a dark room with a device called a pupilmeter and a penlight;
  • Examination of the driver’s muscle tone;
  • Checking the driver for any possible injection sites;
  • Questioning the driver about specific evidence or observations from the DRE process;
  • Documenting the results of the DRE tests; and
  • Obtaining a blood or urine sample for chemical analysis.  

Additional Resources 

Drug Evaluation Classification Program – Visit the official website for the Drug Evaluation Classification Program provided by Sam Houston State University’s Criminal Justice Center. Find more information on how police officers are certified as Drug Recognition experts, what is required for participants, and the 12-step DRE process.

Driving While Intoxicated – Visit the official website for the Texas Department of Transportation to find more information about DWIs in Texas. Learn the penalties for first-time or multiple DWI offenders, how Texas law interprets a DWI, and tips on how to avoid a DWI or DUID.


Lawyer for Driving While Impaired in Cameron County, Texas

If you or someone you know has been charged with driving while impaired on drugs, it’s important that you know what may happen next. Texas law doesn’t have a standardized way to determine impairment for drugs. However, other techniques such as the DRE process can convict you for a DWI. 

Johnathan Gracia is a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in the Cameron County area. With his experience and resources, Johnathan Gracia can create a strong defense for you. Call today at (956) 504-2211 to schedule a free consultation with Johnathan Gracia.

The Gracia Law Firm accepts clients throughout the greater Cameron County area including surrounding counties such as Willacy County and Hidalgo County.


This article was last updated on November 5, 2018.

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