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All Press Releases for February 12, 2014 »
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Drugged driving is increasingly becoming a problem

Driving under the influence of drugs is becoming more of a problem in Texas and nationwide.
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    February 12, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Thanks to years of educational campaigns and tough sentencing laws, people today are very aware of the dangers of drunk driving. However, studies show that a different form of impaired driving is a growing problem: driving under the influence of drugs or "drugged driving."

Researchers at Columbia University's School of Public Health analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collected between 1999 and 2010. The researchers found that although drugged driving was not as prevalent as drunk driving, it is a factor in a significant number of roadway fatalities. The study found that 24.8 percent of driver fatalities during this time period had drugs in their system, compared to the 39.7 percent that were impaired by alcohol.

According to NHTSA data, marijuana is the drug that is most commonly found in the systems of drivers under the influence of drugs. Experts blame the increased public acceptance and perceived lack of dangerous consequences from its use. Aside from marijuana, illegal drugs like cocaine, amphetamines and opiates are commonly found in the systems of impaired drivers. In addition, legal prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, Soma, Xanax and sleeping pills are routinely found.

Since drugged driving does not get the same attention as drunk driving, many people are not aware that it carries similar dangers. Like alcohol, many drugs can impair drivers' motor skills, reaction times and judgment, which exponentially increases the risk of being involved in a collision. Experts predict that, unless the problem is addressed, more people will be killed in car accidents from drugs than alcohol by 2020.

Penalties in Texas are significant

Under Texas law, drugged driving is not a separate offense. However, it is punishable by the same law prohibiting driving while intoxicated. Under the law, a driver is considered intoxicated if:
- He or she has a blood alcohol level of .08 or above
- He or she has lost their mental or physical faculties because of the use of alcohol, drugs (legal or not), controlled substances or a combination thereof. -The cornerstone of the definition is "LOST" your mental or physical faculties.

Law enforcement may pull over drivers that they have a reasonable belief to be under the influence of drugs. If the officers arrest the driver for intoxicated driving they can ask the driver to submit to a blood test, pursuant to Texas' implied consent law. Although a driver may refuse a test, doing so can mean a suspension of his or her license for a minimum of six months. However, if the officers obtain a search warrant to test the driver's blood (which is becoming increasingly common in Texas), the blood will be drawn and tested even without consent.

An issue in DWI cases where the allegation is that the person consumed some drug, whether legal or illegal, is whether the quantity of the drug in the persons system was high enough to make the person lose their mental or physical faculties. As an example, many people take under a doctor's care mood stabilizers or anti-depressants, if that person's blood was tested the prescribed drug would be revealed in the drug test. However, just having the drug in your system while driving is not illegal. The State would have to show that you lost your mental or physical faculties because you ingested the drug.

Under the law, all drugged drivers are subject to the same penalties as drunk drivers. First-time offenders face a Class B misdemeanor charge, which entails jail time up to 180 days, fines up to $2,000, a $1,000 per year license surcharge for three years, license suspension for up to a year and community service. For each subsequent offense, the penalties increase exponentially.

An attorney can help

If you are arrested under suspicion of driving while under the influence of drugs, it is important to seek experienced legal representation as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your rights and work to ensure the best possible outcome.

Article provided by Rush & Gransee, L.C.
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