DWI & Drug Intoxication

You have seen prescription-warning labels telling you not to use alcohol with the medication in the bottle.  That warning can cause legal liability if you disregard it.  Some medications such as Xanax cause the effect of alcohol to increase intoxication.  Certainly, opioids of all kinds do the same.  Other illegally used drugs such as cocaine will cause individuals to become more intoxicated than usual, and in some instances – they will cause individuals to become unaware of their behavior while they are ostensibly conscious.  These are dangerous situations for drivers, and it may be a shock to readers here to know that this situation is more common than one might care to believe.

Thus, DWI includes drug intoxication whether that drug is prescription or illegal.  Intoxication may include a combination of drugs, legal and/or illegal, and it may include a combination of drugs, legal and/or illegal with alcohol. The police will get blood tests and have a laboratory test for drugs.  There are toxicological guidelines for what level of the particular substance in the blood is considered intoxication.  The prosecution will use the lowest number. That is, they use the lowest amount in the particular method or system of calculation for intoxication.

However, the testing process itself can be put on trial.  For example, methamphetamine reacts with alcohol to cause greater intoxication.  Nevertheless, there are two types of methamphetamine: l-methamphetamine (legal – L-methamphetamine is found in Vicks® inhalers) and d-methamphetamine (illegal). These molecules are always together, and the proportion of the molecule determines intoxication.  Therefore, the laboratory must separate these molecules in order to determine intoxication.  Most laboratories, including DPS and Bexar County, do not have the correct equipment to do this.

Forensic analysis for drugs in the blood requires a gas chromatograph attached to a mass spectrometer for separation and measurement.  A hospital EMIT test is only a screening test, and it is not a forensic measurement.  The hospital test must be confirmed by a mass spectrometer.

Drug intoxication science in the courtroom is very complex.  Often the jury will not understand it.  Therefore, it is imperative that the defense lawyer must take these complex issues and distill them into a simplistic example so that the jury (and the judge) will understand it.  Few lawyers are capable of performing this task in a DWI case.

I purchased this very expensive equipment with a toxicologist, and together we used it to teach lawyers these concepts.  I have tried drug intoxication cases before juries: with an expert toxicologist and without an expert toxicologist.  In both instances, I have been successful for my clients – no conviction by the jury.

If you or a family friend or a loved one is faced with this charged offense, please call me as soon as possible.