Marijuana and Driving in Texas

Much to the surprise of many Texas drivers, state DWI laws prohibit more than just intoxication from alcohol. Texas Penal Code 49.04 defines intoxicated driving as being caused by any substance that impairs a driver’s faculties. Under this law, the most common substance associated with a DWI charge, after alcohol, is marijuana.

While the national perspective on marijuana is rapidly changing, it still remains a schedule I controlled substance in Texas and is subject to harsh penalties, especially in the context of a DWI. Unlike other states too, Texas does not recognize medical marijuana, or any other entitlement of a controlled substance. Penalties for a marijuana DWI are roughly modeled after alcohol DWI sentences:

  • First offense: up to 180 days of jail and $2000 in fines
  • Second offense: up to 1 year in jail and $4000 in fines
  • Third offense: up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines

Community service, driver’s license suspension, and surcharges are also part of marijuana DWI sentencing. Just like an alcohol DWI, these penalties become significantly more serious when a minor is found in the vehicle at the time of the DWI stop, as well.

Difficulties in Enforcing Marijuana DWI Laws

While Texas has some of the harshest marijuana DWI laws, it has not been immune to the same complications other states have had in trying to enforce them. For instance, unlike alcohol, evidence of marijuana use cannot be detected by a breathalyzer, the most common roadside chemical test.

Additionally, marijuana traces can be found in urine tests days after any exposure. This means that in many cases, those found with evidence of marijuana in their system may not be under the influence at the time of their arrest. While this may not have a bearing on DWI arrests–officers can arrest when even the smallest traces are found–prosecutors have found it increasingly difficult to counter these chemical testing inaccuracies in court. So while the penalties are harsh, those accused of a marijuana DWI often find themselves with a viable defense options once they reach court.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a marijuana DWI, ensure that you avoid the maximum penalties. Call a knowledgeable Dallas DWI lawyer at the Wilder Firm today for a free consultation.

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