While the “War on Drugs” in Texas is going strong, a repercussion of this is that innocent people are charged with drug offenses ‐ especially including DWI / Driving While Under the Influence. In Texas, as well as many other places, “Drug Recognition Experts” / “DREs” are employed to determine whether a person is under the influence. In many cases a drug recognition expert’s assessment determines whether or not a person is arrested and charged with DWI.
In this post we will explain in some detail what exactly a “Drug Recognition Expert” is, their legal standing, and in particular how this is related to being charged with DWI within the context of prescription medication. Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly common for innocent persons on prescription medication who are not intoxicated to be charged with DWI on the basis of a drug recognition expert’s opinion.
Drug Recognition Experts ‐ Houston Texas
A drug recognition expert is presumably someone who is an expert at being able to detect when someone is under the influence of a drug. This would include not only illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, but also when someone is too intoxicated to drive as a result of prescription medication [an example might be someone who has taken too many legally prescribed Xanax’s to safely drive.]
However, while it may be the case that some DRE’s have undergone extensive training, often it is the case that a drug recognition “expert” is simply a police officer who has received a little training regarding drugs and how they effect persons and is not legally an expert. The result of this is that often drug recognition experts are not qualified to make the sort of conclusions upon which a DWI arrest is made ‐ but nonetheless innocent persons are prosecuted based on those conclusions. Ultimately, only a court of law can determine whether someone is actually an expert [from a legal standpoint.]
The testimony of a drug recognition expert is often used when a person has passed the standard breathalyzer test but a DWI conviction is still sought ‐ this testimony can include claims such as failure to perform well on balance and coordination tests (stand on one leg, walk a straight line, etc.) Unfortunately if a person does not perform well on these tests [and there are many non-drug related reasons why a person might not perform well] and evidence of alcohol use cannot be obtained the default is to assume drug use.
DWI Charges Prescription Medication
This can be particularly troublesome within the context of legal prescriptions. For example, a case where a person is legally prescribed Xanax and has their medicine with them, cannot be charged with any alcohol or illegal drug related crimes, yet does not perform well on a coordination test. Of course in some cases this can be the result of being too intoxicated to drive, but that is not always the case ‐ however a DWI charge will almost always result.
It is important to note that merely taking a prescribed medication does not automatically mean that one is too impaired to drive. Thus, often it is the assessment of the drug recognition expert that determines the extent and degree of the person’s intoxication – and because it is the job of the DRE to find drug impairment it goes without saying that more often than not their assessment will be DWI.
Drug influence evaluation is not an exact science ‐ there are many factors involved in determining whether a person is genuinely impaired to drive. For this reason it is very important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney in such cases ‐ especially if the arrest is based on the assessment of a drug recognition expert within the context of prescription medication. With the help of an attorney these type of cases can often be won.
Houston Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are charged with DWI / prescription medication in Houston, Harris County, or surrounding areas call defense lawyer Carl Haggard at for a free confidential consultation regarding your case. Carl is an Ex-Chief District Prosecutor who has over 30 years of verifiable winning experience. He will immediately go to work fighting for you to provide you the best defense possible against your charges.
For more information about Drug Crimes in Texas, see our detailed legal information page at: Texas Drug Crimes Information