A late 2020 media report calls to our attention a Houston Forensic Science Center study, abstract here, revealing concerning patterns in Houston-area DWI arrests. A review of thousands of area DWI blood tests from 2014 to 2018 shows significant increases in drugged driving, together with marked changes in the drugs of choice. More area drivers may be driving not just drunk but also drugged. And some are driving both drunk and drugged.
The Houston Forensic Science Center
The Houston Forensic Science Center's website states that local government created the Center to provide independent forensic services to law enforcement agencies, primarily the Houston Police Department. Given its government creation and funding source (the city of Houston provides over 95% of its annual funding), one might question the Center's independence. Frankly, this is still the Houston Police Department Crime Lab with a new name no longer housed in the Houston Police Department building.
Yet, the Center analyzes samples and completes other forensic examinations under published standards that enable it to maintain various accreditations. And one has little reason to doubt the reliability of the Center's study, even if methods, equipment, and other variables may call into serious question individual test results.
Confirming Well-Known Patterns
The reported study, published in 2020 and too cutely titled Everything Is Bigger in Texas: Alcohol Impaired Driving in Houston (2014-2018), analyzed patterns within well over 12,000 Houston DWI blood tests. Those patterns showed that the great majority of DWI arrests were of males and especially those between ages 21 and 44. That data wasn't especially surprising.
Given the prevalence of male over female arrests, the press report shared a public statement from the Center's president calling Houston drunk driving a “dumb guy phenomenon,” something long known or assumed. The same public statement shared that 44% of Houston traffic fatalities are alcohol-related. We've long known that drunk driving is a serious public health problem, especially among younger males.
The Study's Drugged-Driving Details
But the study's drugged-driving data was just as concerning, and the study's more-revealing part. The same statement captured in the press report shared that while 45% of the under-21 drivers tested negative for alcohol, an astounding 80% of those same drivers tested positive for drugs.
What that data means is that Houston's youngest intoxicated drivers are just about as likely to be drugged as drunk. The Center's president called it the study's “scary part,” that one alarming finding of the very high rate of drugged driving among the very youngest drivers. Indeed, the reporter began the story hinting at the painfully overused line that Houston has a big problem.
The study wasn't surprising in revealing marijuana-derived cannabinoids as the most common drug in the thousands of samples. Among the top five drugs of choice, cocaine and opioids ranked fourth and fifth. Of special interest, though, was that phencyclidine, also known as PCP or angel dust, rose from only the fifth-most-common drug in the study's first year 2014 to the second-most-common drug in the final year 2018. Drugs of choice vary wildly year to year as demand, supply, and culture influence.
Retain Skilled Representation to Defend DWI Charges
Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana is a Texas DWI offense, as are other forms of drugged driving. Premier criminal-defense lawyer and 2021 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year Doug Murphy helps clients defend drugged-driving and drunk-and-drugged-driving charges. See here more about how DWI Specialist Doug Murphy can help win a DWI case. The key for anyone facing a DWI charge is to know your DWI rights while getting the legal representation to enforce those rights.
As a Board Certified DWI specialist and one of only two Texas lawyers holding both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification, Doug Murphy has the experience and expertise to help DWI defendants beat the charges. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your case today, whether your case is of public interest or not. Trust Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy with your DWI defense.