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DWI - Prescription Medication

Houston, TX |

With all the attention on DWI, I've got a hypothetical question.

A person is prescribed Vicodin 10mg x 4/day, and takes them as prescribed. When driving the medication is kept in a locked compartment outside the cabin of the vehicle. The person taking the medication has been taking the prescried dosage for over two years due ot chronic pain and does not "get high" from their prescried dosage and exhibits no signs of intoxication.

This person gets pulled over for speeding. What must an officer observe to conduct a DWI investigation? There is no evidence of the prescribed medication in the cabin of the vehicle, is search of a locked compartment outside the cabin of the vehicle legal? If the officer were to conduct a DWI investigation, what should the driver do?

Thanks 4 your time

Attorney Answers 3


The officer must observe behavior consistent with impairment. This behavior may include slurred speech, a distant stare, staggered gait (if the person gets out of the vehicle) and driving behavior consistent with impairment. If signs of impairment are not present, it is unlikely that there will be no further investigation or inquiry.

If the Vicodin is taken within the therapeutic limits, the medication is prescribed, and there is no sign of impairment, then a DUI will not stand. That does not mean that the DUI cannot be charged.

When taking prescribed medications, particularly narcotics, it is incredibly important to do everything possible not to get into these situations. The unfortunate reality of your hypothetical situation is that there are a number of accidents caused by individuals under the influence of prescribed medications. Proceed with caution.

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If someone is stopped by the police, the vehicle cannot be searched unless there is evidence of a crime such as the smell of marijuana or unless the driver has warrants. If the officer suspects DWI and makes an arrest then the vehicle, including any locked compartments, is subject to an inventory search. The hypothetical person needs to contact a non hypothetical experienced DWI attorney.
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My answers are intended only as general legal advice and are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. There is no substitute for a full consultation with a local experienced criminal defense attorney. For more answers based on my 19 years of experience visit my website,

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Texas law allows DWI to be proven three ways: loss of normal use of mental faculties, loss of normal use of physical faculities, or a BAC over .08. If the officer has probable cause to believe the person has lost normal use of mental or physical faculties due to an intoxicant, he can arrest the person. The officer will typically state that the person had unsteady balance and her speech was slurred. He may also rely on the driving facts and other physical behavior (shaking, sweating, red eyes, etc.). He may also feel the person is confused or disoriented.

If you are investigated for DWI, you should refuse all tests. There are any number of reasons a person doesn't perform well on the field sobriety tests, but the officer will attribute all errors to the intoxicant. Performing field sobriety tests just gives the State evidence against you.

There are any number of reasons an officer can search a car without a warrant. Your attorney will have to review the specifics of the case to properly advise you on this.

Macy Jaggers's answer to a legal question on Avvo does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Ms. Jaggers offers everyone a free consultation to discuss their case. Feel free to call her office at 214-365-9800 to make an appointment (phones are answered 24 hours) or visit her website at for more information about her services and recent victories.

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