How does Texas criminalize driving while intoxicated by drugs?

Texas law looks at whether a driver has lost his or her faculties because of an ingested drug or substance.

It is no secret that driving while under the influence of a drug can be as dangerous as driving after drinking alcohol. The National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIDA says that in the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health about 10 million people aged 12 years or older said that they had driven under the influence of "illicit drugs" in the previous year.

According to NIDA, marijuana is the most common drug involved in drugged driving (after alcohol).

DWI drugs

It is therefore no surprise that states, including Texas, make it a crime to drive while under the influence of drugs. Some states' laws state that the presence of any measurable level or a specific measurable level of certain drugs in drivers' bodies violates drunk driving laws. Texas is not one of these, however.

Drug intoxication

In Texas, the crime of driving while intoxicated or DWI can be committed if a person drives a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated by "alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body." Accordingly, the law reaches any illegal drug like marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine or cocaine; prescription drug like Valium, antidepressants, hydrocodone, muscle relaxants or sleeping agents; over-the-counter medicine like decongestants or allergy medication; or other substance introduced into the body that can cause intoxication.

It is not a defense to a DWI drug charge that the drug or substance was legally prescribed by a doctor or legally purchased over the counter.

In Texas, whether someone was intoxicated behind the wheel looks at whether the substance in the body caused the person to lose the "normal use of mental or physical faculties." Loss of faculties for purposes of showing intoxication might be shown by poor performance in field sobriety tests, erratic driving, disorientation, confusion, odd behavior, inability to respond to directions, statements inconsistent with actual facts (like the wrong time, place or date) and so forth.


It is extremely important that anyone facing possible drugged driving charges contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately becausae the potential sanctions and other negative consequences for conviction are grave and can include:

  • Prison time
  • Steep fines
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Criminal record
  • Higher insurance rates
  • Negative impact on personal reputation

Penalties imposed could be more severe if it is a repeat offense, a passenger under 15 was in the vehicle or the defendant had an open alcohol bottle.

Seek legal representation

Experienced legal counsel will launch an extensive investigation into the traffic stop, arrest, drug testing, police conduct, witnesses, details of any accident and other relevant information. The attorney will analyze the facts for any violations of the defendant's legal or constitutional rights, police misconduct, chemical testing procedures or equipment failure, and anything else relevant to the defense.

The lawyer will fight to keep charges from being brought, for them to be dismissed or for a fair plea agreement, if appropriate. If necessary, defense counsel will raise a vigorous defense at trial or for a fair sentence, if required.

The lawyers at Krieger & Ongert, Attorneys At Law, with offices in Houston and League City, zealously fight to protect the legal and constitutional rights of clients facing drugged driving and other criminal charges in the Houston, Galveston and League City areas.