Texas Laws for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
- May 3, 2017
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
- Comments Off on Texas Laws for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
According to Texas laws, driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime. You may not drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, other drugs, or a combination of these substances. The question of whether or not the driver is impaired is determined at the prosecutor’s discretion. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges are often associated with drinking alcohol, but Texas driving under the influence (DUI) laws aren’t only for drunk driving. If you’re found guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana, stringent penalties may apply.
A driver commits a driving under the influence (DUI) violation if he or she is intoxicated when operating a motorized vehicle in a public place (Texas Penal Code Ann. § 49.04). Unlike the blood alcohol tests used to show a driver is under the influence of alcohol, any marijuana found in the accused’s test specimen establishes that he or she is driving under the influence (Texas Penal Code Ann. § 49.01). Although many drivers say that using marijuana isn’t like drinking alcohol, the law says that driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) is just as serious as getting charged with a DWI.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in Texas
In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re using legal prescription drugs, marijuana, or illegal street drugs. If you get behind the wheel after using them—or if you’re using as you drive—the law says the substance can affect judgment.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that drivers using marijuana within several hours of driving bear an accident risk that’s about twice that of the sober driver. Although the risk of an accident is higher if you drink alcohol and drive, marijuana use substantially increases the driver’s risk of an accident:
- Accident statistics show that about 7 percent of drivers had some level of TCH in their blood or urine. TCH is found in marijuana.
- A medical marijuana prescription isn’t a defense if the driver is involved in an accident. Many prescription drugs, including anti-seizure medicines, can also impair the driver’s judgment and increase driver errors.
Certain drugs affect driver reaction time, perception, and spatial awareness. These faculties are essential to the safe driver’s ability to operate a car. When driving under the influence of marijuana, you may miscalculate distances between vehicles, follow the car in front too closely, or fail to use the brakes in time. Drugs affect your ability to gauge travel speed. If you take marijuana or use other drugs before getting behind the wheel, it’s easier to lose control of your vehicle.
Operating a Vehicle While under the Influence of Drugs
If you’re pulled over by an officer for operating a car or truck while under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, here’s what happens:
- You’ll get tested. Although testing for DUID isn’t as specific as blood alcohol or breathalyzer tests, the law of Implied Consent in Texas means the driver has already given consent to provide specimens of blood or breath for testing. If you don’t submit to testing, your refusal may be used as evidence against you at trial.
- You don’t get a phone call to your lawyer. In Texas, you aren’t given the right to speak with an attorney before making the decision to provide a specimen.
- You don’t have a choice of specimen. Laws in Texas don’t allow you to decide what kind of specimen you give to the officer. Although the officer may give you a choice, he or she can simply demand that you submit a sample on demand.
- You won’t be asked to perform a field sobriety test. Because the prosecutor in your DUID case won’t need to prove your senses or perceptions were impaired, the officer won’t ask for a balance or speech assessment test.
After you’re tested and the concentration of TCH or other drugs are determined in your blood or urine specimen, the state must decide whether to make a charge against you. All the prosecutor needs to know is that any amount of marijuana/TCH was in your system to prove your senses were affected. According to Texas Penal Code Ann. § 49.01, that’s enough to make a DUID charge against you.
Possible Defenses Against a DUID Charge
If an officer pulls you over and suspects you’re driving under the influence of marijuana, you must reach out to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with DUI/DWI experience right away. Depending on the facts of your case, he may use one or more of the following defense strategies to protect your rights:
- Introduce one or more independent witnesses to state you appeared sober, despite the results of drug testing.
- Plead guilty to a lesser charge, e.g. reckless driving.
- Present relevant facts to the court, e.g. you weren’t driving the vehicle when the officer appeared.
Law enforcement professionals may want to attach an additional charge of drug possession to your DUI marijuana charge. If found guilty, you would face higher fines and jail time. You need a skillful DUI defense attorney in Houston to fight against punitive charges while protecting your rights from start to finish.
It’s also important to realize that metabolic traces of marijuana can remain in your system for up to a month or longer after using it. If you’re pulled over and the officer suspects you of DUI or DWI, your specimen may show TCH even if you’re aren’t impaired. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney knows how to get justice for you.
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
If you are convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana or drugs, penalties vary for first or subsequent convictions. Increased penalties apply if the DUI or DWI was committed when a minor was in the vehicle:
- For a first conviction, penalties include a $2,000 maximum fine, 72 hours to 180 days of jail time, 24 to 100 hours’ community service, and up to 12 months of driver’s license suspension.
- For a second conviction, penalties include a maximum $4,000 fine, 72 hours to 12 months in jail (or both), 80 – 200 hours’ community service, and 180 days – two years’ license suspension.
- For a third or subsequent conviction, penalties include a maximum fine of $10,000, two to 10 years of prison time (or both), 160 – 600 hours’ community service, and 180 days – two years’ suspension of driver’s license.
A marijuana-related driving charge is a serious offense. Don’t wait to consult a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer. If convicted of marijuana charge, consequences and penalties are bound by statutory law. Only a criminal defense attorney with experience in cases like yours can offer guidance about what to expect from local judges and prosecutors.