DWI and Drugs

About 25-30% of our cases involve DWI charges in which the person is suspected of using drugs. (See Louisiana DWI Laws for more on the specific laws related to drug-related DWI.)

The fact that you might have a prescription for drugs, such as pain-killers, or Xanax for anxiety, or Soma for muscle pain, is NOT a defense. It is legal for you to drive while using prescription drugs, or drinking for that matter, but it is not legal if doing so impairs you.

DWI penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are the same as they would be if the chemical that impaired the driver was alcohol. Thus, you need a DUI attorney to provide your best legal argument against the arrest.

Louisiana’s Law Regarding Driving While Under the Influence of Drugs

Louisiana has a specific statute regarding drug-related DUI crimes. The most relevant section of the law to those facing misdemeanor and felony DWI drug charges states:

14 La. Rev. Stat. § 98
A. (1) The crime of operating a vehicle while intoxicated is the operating of any motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, vessel, or other means of conveyance when: …
(c) The operator is under the influence of any controlled dangerous substance listed in Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V as set forth in La. R.S. 40:964
(d)(i) The operator is under the influence of a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances and which are legally obtainable with or without a prescription.
(e)(i) The operator is under the influence of one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances and which are legally obtainable with or without a prescription.

As Louisiana’s law reads, a person can be convicted for a DWI drugs crime when they are in control of nearly any type of vehicle and were under the influence of either an illegal drug (marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, other narcotics, etc) or a medication available OTC or by prescription. The State will by provide the police officer’s report and drug test of your blood or urine as evidence that you used a drug that was legal or illegal and that your driving was impaired by that substance.

Whether you need an attorney to handle the illegal drug aspect of your case or to show proof that your medication use was lawful, your best choice for legal counsel is the law office of Bates and McMillin.

Legal Medications Result in DUI Drug Charges

Taking a prescription drug or an over the counter medication often results in DUI drug charges. Some medications will cause you to fail a Breathalyzer test. Others will make you appear impaired to the police officer who pulled you over. Cases involving prescription medication and over-the-counter drugs, however, are more complicated than standard DUI drug cases, and top criminal defense attorneys like James Bates and Robert McMillin will work hard to prove your innocence.

Types of prescription and over the counter medications associated with cases for driving under the influence of drugs include: antihistamines, stimulants, tranquilizers, pain relievers, sleep aids, sedatives, muscle relaxants and cough suppressants. The drugs mostly commonly connected to DUI arrests include:

Any of the above medications can cause side effects such as grogginess, drowsiness, dizziness, confusion and loss of coordination. Combinations of these medications can increase both your symptoms and your impairment. Thus, if a police officer pulls you over when you are experiencing these side effects, you could face a DUI charge.

Medical marijuana is also a problematic substance for DUI drug charges in Louisiana. Though the state is working toward its legalization of medical marijuana, having a prescription for marijuana from another state can still result in a DUI drugs charge if your driving was impaired at the time of your arrest.

When you are charged with driving under the influence of prescription drugs, you must be able to show that your doctor prescribed the medication for you. If you obtained the medication without a prescription or from a source other than a licensed medical professional, you may face other criminal charges.

Fighting DUI Prescription Drug Charges

When you face DWI charges for driving under the influence of prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, your attorney will fight for your rights by presenting one of two affirmative defenses for DUID cases.

He will show that:

  1. You did not knowingly take a dosage of the medication which substantially exceeded the amount identified by your doctor or the manufacturer’s instructions located on the box, bottle or dosing instructions.
  2. Or, you had no warning from your doctor or the manufacturer that the medication could not be combined with an alcoholic beverage.

These affirmative defenses to DUI prescription drug charges are identified in the Louisiana Revised Statutes. There are, however, other defenses to fight your DUI charge that the skilled attorneys at Bates and McMillin are prepared to use. Combining prescription and/or over the counter medications, for example, may have led to your impairment without your having any knowledge that this could happen. Another complication could be that you blew a high level on a Breathalyzer due to the combination of a small amount of alcohol with a low dose of the antidepressants belonging to the SSRI family.

James Bates and Robert McMillin are highly trained, legal experts in DUI defense and understand what evidence is needed from your medical records in order to present your best defense against the State. They also understand how to interpret toxicology reports and will poke holes in the findings to get your charges dropped or reduced.

Don’t face a DUI Drugs conviction due to your use of legal medications. Call 985-643-0316 now to schedule an appointment with Bates and McMillin.

Punishments for Drug-Related DWI Convictions in Louisiana

The punishments for driving while under the influence of drug convictions in Louisiana are severe. If you’ve had more than two convictions, your third and subsequent arrest will be treated as a felony DWI crime. Below is a chart showing just a few of the penalties for drug-related DWI convictions.

Punishment1st Offense2nd Offense3rd Offense (Felony)4th Offense
Jail TimeA minimum of 10 days; up to 6 monthsBetween 30 days and 6 monthsA minimum of 1 year; up to 5 yearsA 10 to 30 year sentence; at least 2 years must be served in prison
Community Service HoursAt least 32 hoursAt least 240 hoursAt least 240 hours
At least 320 hours
FinesA minimum of $300 to $1,000 plus feesA minimum of $750 to $1,000 plus feesA minimum of $2000
A minimum of $5,000
License Suspension90 days1 year2 years
2 years

The chart only identifies a few of the strict consequences of misdemeanor and felony DUI drugs cases. Other penalties for DWI drug cases include substance abuse courses and evaluations, the search and seizure of your vehicle, mandatory psychological testing, additional fees and house arrest.

Louisiana’s child endangerment laws also impose mandatory jail sentences if a child under 12 was in your vehicle at the time of arrest. Don’t let the punishment for a drug-related DWI impair your employment or other aspects of your life. Contact Bates and McMillin today to properly begin the fight against your DUID charges.

Your defense attorney needs all the training he can get to defend charges of drug-related DWI.

James Bates and Robert McMillin have that training. Part of the conviction process for DUI drugs cases involves the testing of your bodily fluids for proof of a controlled substance.  This testing falls within Louisiana’s Implied Consent Law.

Drugs are generally detected by urine tests or when a blood sample has been sent to the Louisiana Crime Lab, by the use of a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer machine.  James Bates and Robert McMillin completed the ACS Forensic Gas Chromatography course in the interpretation and operation of that machine, specifically for DUID cases.  In fact, they are among the few attorneys in Louisiana to have that training. Robert McMillin is also a member of the American Chemistry Society.

Only properly administered tests can be used against you in a court of law, so you need the analysis of your case to be conducted by the best trained DUI attorneys like the legal team of Bates and McMillin.

Call 985-643-0316 if you were arrested for DWI in any of the following parishes:

Call 504-259-7461 if you were arrested for DWI in any other parish in Louisiana, including: