The Opioid Epidemic and Driving While Intoxicated

Last July, a terrible accident occurred in Lockhart, Texas involving a hot air balloon, 15 passengers and a drug impaired ballooning pilot. All 16 people, including the pilot, were killed when the hot air balloon struck a powerline, burst into flames and crashed into the ground. Months later, Bloomberg News reported that the ballooning pilot’s toxicology screen report showed the pilot was on a cocktail of drugs, including oxycodone at the time of crash.

Current Opioid Epidemic

Opiates make up a class of drugs that change how the body experiences pain and are prescribed for chronic pain. Every state in the U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of abuse of opiates. In 2015, more people died from heroin overdoses than from gun homicides. 33,000 people died from opiate overdoses in 2015, which is almost equal to the total number of people killed in car crashes.

Oxycodone, the drug found in the ballooning pilot’s bloodstream, is a narcotic prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. A controlled substance, oxycodone carries with it a high risk for dependence and addiction, and when mixed with alcohol, it may lead to severe respiratory failure. The data points to a gloomy picture:

  • In 2013, 60 million prescriptions for oxycodone were prescribed in the U.S.
  • In 2012, 1 million people reported abusing oxycodone in their lifetime.
  • In 2011, 150,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms because of oxycodone-related problems

As government and health officials try to respond to the opioid crisis, many of the addicted take to Texas roadways to handle daily chores like driving to work, dropping off and picking up children at school, and purchasing food or household goods.

Texas DWI (Drugs) Law

DWI (Drugs) offenses in Texas are defined in Texas Penal Code 49.01 and are described as driving a vehicle after the consumption of drugs or medication, other than alcohol, that interfere with a person’s capacity to operate a vehicle safely. Convictions for DWI (Drugs) are considered a prior conviction in any subsequent DWI (Alcohol) or DWI (Drugs) case in Texas, regardless of the final disposition of the first or original DWI (Drugs) matter, and is considered during the sentencing phase of future DWI (Alcohol) or (Drugs) cases. Keep in mind that a refusal to provide a blood sample can be admitted into evidence against the driver under Texas’ implied consent laws.

Contact a Texas DWI Drugs Defense Attorney Today

Our firm handles criminal matters ranging in misdemeanors and felonies related to DWI (Drugs) defense in Texas. From before formal criminal charges are filed, through trial, and post-conviction relief and expungements, the Law Office of Kimberly Griffin Tucker is here to help you. If you have been arrested, ordered to appear in criminal court, or are otherwise in need of a consultation with a criminal law attorney specializing in DWI (Drugs) defense, do not hesitate to call (214) 445-6336 or visit our website and schedule an immediate confidential case evaluation.

(image courtesy of Austin ban)