Defenses for Suspected Drugged Driving in Central Texas
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious crime that carries serious penalties, and with good reason. A driver who is intoxicated or high may drive recklessly or at the very least have delayed reaction times – either of which could result in an accident that injures or kills the driver or their passengers; drivers or passengers in other vehicles; or even pedestrians. Even in a single vehicle accident with no fatalities, expensive damage can occur to public or private property. So, it makes sense that law enforcement takes these potential incidents seriously and are always on the lookout for drivers who may be driving drunk or drugged. But, if the police stop a driver on suspicion of drunk or drugged driving in Central Texas, how do they prove the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
Law enforcement does have tools they can use to check driver’s sobriety, however, most of these tools are only applicable for drunk driving. Regardless, that does not mean that police will not charge you with drugged driving if they suspect you are high, and it does not mean that their case will not hold up in court. If you or a loved one have been charged with drugged driving in Killeen or Copperas Cove – or anywhere else in Central Texas – you should speak with an experienced drugged driving defense attorney as soon as possible. The Killeen DWI lawyers at Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm can help.
What happens if you are stopped for drugged driving?
Being pulled over for suspicion of drunk or drugged driving can be nerve-wracking, but remember, it is just that: suspicion. The police here in Central Texas do have tests they can administer to determine if a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the legal limit of 0.08%. For instance, a breath test administered on the side of the road will immediately let the police know if you are above the legal limit. However, a breath test will not show the level of marijuana in a driver’s system.
If law enforcement suspects that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may decide to administer a field sobriety test, such as:
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus test. In this test, the officer will use a flashlight or pen to track the movement of your eyes. You will be required to keep your head still and only follow the object with your eyes. The officer will observe your eyes to determine if there is any exaggerated bouncing eye movement and at what point in tracking the object’s movement the bounce occurs.
- The walk and turn test. This one may sound simple, but it can be challenging for anyone who is not sober – or someone who is tired or suffers from any medical conditions that may cause dizziness or disrupt balance. In the walk and turn test, you will be asked to stand toe-to-heel and then walk in a straight line, turn around, and walk back to the officer, with the heel of your front foot touching the toe of your rear foot with each step. The officer will watch your feet closely as you walk to determine your arm placement and movement, if you are able to walk in a straight line, if you can correctly count out loud as you walk, take the required number of steps in each direction, start too soon, stop or stumble at any point while walking, lose your balance, or fail to turn properly.
- The one-leg stand test. This test requires you to stand with one foot raised off the ground for up to 30 seconds while counting off the seconds. The officer will observe how long you are able to hold your foot off the ground, if you are able to count correctly, if you can maintain your balance without using your arms, and if you hop or move sideways during the test.
While a field sobriety test may indicate that you are intoxicated or high, these tests are not foolproof and can be challenged in court. There are several reasons why a field sobriety test might fail, including officer error, weather or other roadside conditions, a documented or previously undiagnosed medical condition, or the driver’s physical condition such as their weight.
For traffic stops that an officer suspects may involve marijuana, law enforcement may call a specially trained officer to the scene. This officer, known as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) may conduct additional tests to determine if you are impaired and to collect more evidence against you.
How can police determine drugged driving?
Since a breath test cannot determine how much THC is in a person’s body, police may decide to administer a blood test. In this case, the driver may refuse. However, if you do so, the police may use the state’s “No Refusal” law to require you to submit. Under this law, law enforcement may obtain a warrant from a judge ordering you to submit to the blood test. Your blood sample will then be tested for alcohol and drugs such as marijuana. In Central Texas, any amount of marijuana in your system may be enough to charge you with drugged driving. Unlike in other states where recreational marijuana use is legal, that is not the case here.
What to do if you are charged with drugged driving
Unlike a breath test that immediately reveals to police if you are drunk, there is no simple way for law enforcement to determine if you are high. This is particularly true if officers suspect you have been using marijuana, as there is no roadside, portable test for this. Essentially, it may come down to your word against law enforcement and the results of a field sobriety test – unless officers have taken a blood sample.
However, it is important to note that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marijuana can stay in a person’s system for up to two weeks for a casual user and longer for a chronic user. You may have a valid medical reason for using marijuana, but either way, the fact that it is in your system does not mean that you were impaired while driving, as you may have used the marijuana up to two weeks or more prior to being pulled over by police. This could be grounds for a solid defense against drugged driving charges.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for drugged driving in Killeen or Copperas Cove, the DWI defense attorneys at Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm can help. We have extensive experience defending DWI clients throughout Central Texas, including Coryell County, Bell County, Temple, and Belmont in cases involving drugged driving. We understand how the prosecution builds a case – and we know exactly how to pick it apart. As skilled drugged driving defense lawyers, we fight hard to secure the best possible outcome for our clients. Call us or fill out our contact form today to schedule a consultation. We stand ready to fight for you.
I’ve dedicated my legal career to defending my clients. I demand all the evidence. I investigate all the facts, the so-called witnesses and even the police officers. I make it my business to know the law. Cases can be won or lost before you even set foot inside the courtroom.
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