Marijuana DWI in the State of Texas

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Possession of marijuana is not the only marijuana crime in Texas you need to be concerned with. You can absolutely be charged with driving while intoxicated while under the influence of marijuana. Under Texas law, you can be charged with DWI if, by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body you no longer have the normal use of mental or physical faculties. Often times this is characterized as a combination charge, meaning the defendant is charged with a DWI with both alcohol and marijuana in his or her system. Sometimes the defendant just has marijuana in his or her system and is showing severe signs of mental or physical impairment on field sobriety tests or during a drug abuse recognition (DAR) examination conducted by a drug recognition expert (DRE) due solely to ingestion of marijuana.

The problem with straight marijuana DWIs is there is not a tremendous amount of literature related to studies correlating the amount of marijuana in an individual’s system and his or her ability to drive. It is not like alcohol where there is a tremendous amount of scientific literature showing a direct correlation. We know that most experts agree that every person is impaired at 0.08% blood alcohol level, which is why it is illegal to drive at or above that level in every state in the United States. In fact, many organizations now argue that everyone is impaired at a 0.05% blood alcohol concentration.

With marijuana, it is more difficult to tell. In states where marijuana is now legal, like Colorado and Washington, they are claiming they are starting to see an increase in accidents where they believe marijuana intoxication might be a factor. Therefore, they are trying to come up with a level of nanograms per milliliter where all persons would be considered intoxicated. This approach is very problematic. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has a cumulative effect in a system, namely his or her blood and urine. This means as you smoke it builds up in your blood and urine. The more you smoke, the more your baseline level of THC is. For instance, a daily smoker will have THC in his or her system, meaning his blood and urine, all of the time, even if he or she did not necessarily smoke that day. Thus, a person could theoretically have an illegal amount of THC in his or her blood while driving even though he or she is not intoxicated at the time of driving because he or she did not smoke recently.

In addition, a daily smoker is not going to be affected bymarijuana in the same way as someone who does not smoke regularly. Someone who smokes some highly potent marijuana for the first time will show obvious signs of impairment. He or she will likely be suffering from a ground control to Major Tom situation and have no business operating a remote control let alone a motor vehicle. Someone who smokes every day, however, can smoke a fair amount of highly potent marijuana and still be able to function normally. While I would never recommend that someone smoke marijuana and drive, someone who regularly smokes and drives probably would not show obvious signs of impairment and would only be outed if he or she was investigated by a very experienced law enforcement officer, who is a drug recognition expert (DRE), and whose results were confirmed by a blood test.

In short, driving while intoxicated (DWI) by marijuana is a serious charge and is being charged more and more often in the state of Texas. In my own experience, I am seeing straight marijuana DWIs being filed more often than ever before. The state relies heavily on videos in these cases as there is very sketchy science regarding THC levels and a person’s ability to drive. Unfortunately, I have seen some videos where the client has been completely out of it. I have seen other videos where the client looked absolutely fine and the state has filed charges. I have obviously gotten those charges dismissed.

It is imperative that you hire someone who is familiar with driving while intoxicated laws in the state of Texas and specifically driving while intoxicated by marijuana. If you have any questions, please feel free to call Austin Marijuana DWI Attorney Jason Trumpler anytime at (512) 359-3300.