Most drivers in Texas are aware they will most likely get a DUI for driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances such as cocaine. However, they may not know that drivers can also get charged for being impaired by prescription medications while driving. All states have their own laws regarding substance use and driving.
Per se charges
DUI charges may be brought under two types: per se and impaired driving. Nearly all 50 states have a legal BAC limit of 0.08 or less. A per se charge means “by itself” and doesn’t require other evidence of impairment.
To be charged with per se, the driver has to be under the influence of a substance while operating a motor vehicle above the legal BAC. The driver doesn’t need to show obvious signs of impairment to be charged. In some states, any amount of an illegal substance can lead to a per se charge.
An impaired driving charge, known as DWI, refers to driving while impaired regardless of the amount or substance. For example, while properly prescribed drugs are legal substances, drivers could still get charged with DWI if they get behind the wheel while impaired by side effects. A DWI often comes with stiffer penalties and fines since it can involve higher intoxication levels.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines impairment as the inability to drive safely. When an officer pulls suspicious vehicle over, they may test the driver’s BAC to determine impairment using one or more tests such as a balance and eye test. Some signs of impairment include a high fatigue level, slurred speech, dizziness, erratic driving behavior, slow reaction time and lack of coordination.
Unlike a per se charge, an officer has to show proof that a driver was intoxicated in order for a DWI charge to hold. If a driver thinks the tests are wrong, they may want to hire an attorney to help present a defense.