While most people envision driving under the influence of alcohol when they think of a DWI, marijuana and controlled substance use can also lead to DWI charges, and will count toward DUI 2nd offense Texas. Here are the answers to common questions regarding marijuana and prescription drug DWIs in Texas.
What Constitutes a Marijuana or Prescription Drug DWI?
Under the Texas Penal Code, an individual is considered impaired if they are lacking normal mental and physical facilities due to alcohol or drugs. If an officer believes that you are under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs during a traffic stop they can ask you to perform a field sobriety test and a urine or blood test. Under Texas’ Implied Consent Laws, your license can be suspended for refusing a urine or blood test.
What is Considered Reasonable Suspicion for a Marijuana or Prescription Drug?
For your traffic stop to be considered constitutional, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This includes erratic driving or evidence of a road violation such as speeding or running a stoplight. Once pulled over, the officer will look for several additional indicators of marijuana or drug intoxication.
- Marijuana Intoxication: Major telltale signs of marijuana intoxication include eye redness, the odor of marijuana or marijuana smoke, and an enhanced sense of paranoia. If an officer suspects you to be driving under the influence of marijuana they will likely ask to search your vehicle. The smell of marijuana is considered probable cause and will allow officers to search your vehicle without consent or a warning. The presence of marijuana in your vehicle can be used as evidence for a DWI charge and can spark additional possession charges.
- Prescription Drug Intoxication: Many common prescription drugs such as Xanax, Valium, and Ambien can lead to DWIs due to causing drowsiness or impaired concentration. During a DWI traffic stop officers will usually ask if you take medication and may ask you to submit a blood test if you seem impaired on drugs. In some cases, a specially trained Drug Recognition Expert will be brought in to monitor your behavior. DRE officers can spot the behavioral signs of prescription drug impairment and make arrests when appropriate.
What Are The Penalties for a Marijuana or Prescription Drug DWI?
Since the Texas Penal Code considers marijuana and prescription drugs in its DWI laws the penalties are the same as a traditional DWI:
- 1st Offense: Considered a class B misdemeanor, a 1st offense DWI typically carries up to 180 days in jail, a maximum fine of $2,000, and a suspended license for 90 to 180 days.
- 2nd Offense: Considered a class A misdemeanor, a DWI 2nd offense in Texas carries up to a year in jail, a maximum fine of $4,000, and a suspended license for one to two years.
- 3rd Offense: A 3rd DWI offense is considered a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies carry two to ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, and a suspended license for two years. Subsequent charges beyond a 3rd DWI are still classified as third-degree felonies but will come with harsher sentences with fines and jail time closer to the maximum.
How Can a Lawyer Help My Case?
An expert DWI lawyer is crucial for any case involving marijuana or prescription drugs, and especially important for those facing a DWI 2nd offense or subsequent charges in Texas. If you’re facing a prescription drug or marijuana DWI, the prosecution may be relying heavily upon the results of a field sobriety test or a DRE’s testimony. Field sobriety tests and DRE observations are not based on science and can be impacted by environmental factors, officer error, and a defendant’s characteristics. Eye redness can also be scrutinized by a DWI attorney, as this is often a symptom of road fatigue or common medical conditions such as nystagmus. Given the complexity of marijuana and prescription drug DWIs, it is important to seek out a specialized lawyer. Be sure to ask prospective lawyers about similar cases they’ve taken on and their outcomes.