Around 3.9 percent of American adults admit to driving under the influence of drugs, with many of them unsure about the possibility of getting pulled over for a DWI or DUI. It makes sense – we usually think of DWIs as related exclusively to alcohol. But we shouldn’t, because driving while high still carries the possibility of conviction.
Driving While Impaired
Impaired driving is always illegal, whether or not intoxication occurs because of alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two. The psychoactive effects of THC, opiates and other substances can cause the following symptoms, which place drivers, passengers and anyone else on the road at a heightened risk of an accident:
- How time is perceived
- How speed is perceived
- Memory retention
- Slowed motor skills
- Poor balance
- Poor coordination
- Compromised attention span
There is currently no way to measure the effects of THC and other drugs on the body’s ability to drive, especially since people with higher tolerance levels tend to perform better behind the wheel than those who are less experienced with drugs.
However, the fact is, you will experience repercussions and penalties if you are caught driving while impaired…though the details may vary from county to county. And be warned: You can get a DUI even in states where the recreational use of certain drugs, such as marijuana, is legal.
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence
An intoxicated driver that blows a .000 on the BAC tester will simply move on to the next stage of testing for drugs rather than be let off the hook. In Texas, the penalties for DWI and DUI are similar, though refusing a chemical test can mean a driver’s license suspension of 90 days to two years. Alternatively, they may temporarily hold your license and make you pay a $125 fee to get it back.
For a DWI (which, in Texas, encompasses alcohol and drugs), the penalties are:
- First offense (Class B misdemeanor): Fine of $2,000 or less and/or jail time between three to 180 days, plus a possible driver’s license suspension of 90 to 365 days.
- Second offense (Class A misdemeanor): Fine of $4,000 or less and/or jail time between 30 days to one year, plus a possible driver’s license suspension of 180 days to two years.
- Third offense (3rd degree felony): Fine of $10,000 and/or jail time of two to 10 years, plus a driver’s license suspension of 180 days to two years.
(Additional information about penalties for additional offenses that sometimes accompany driving while impaired, such as open containers or possession, can be found here.)
It should be noted that, since October, the rules on marijuana possession for the first offense have slackened for first-time offenders. You will not face charges if caught and you agree to eight hours of community service and/or a drug awareness class. Despite these changes, if you are caught driving under the influence of marijuana, you are still susceptible to DWI charges.
Drug Recognition Evaluations (DRE) require 14 steps to determine the types and concentrations of drugs in your system. As you can probably imagine, this complicates your DWI case. A skilled attorney can help you navigate the nuances of these situations.
Legal Assistance with Impaired Driving Charges
Mark Thiessen has experience dealing with the DRE, as well as representing DWI cases involving marijuana and other drugs. If you need a free consultation, contact the firm today.