Just as there is with the weed laws in Texas, there seems to be a lot of confusion (and misinformation) surrounding driving high and DWI. Is driving high a DWI? Can you get a DWI for weed in Texas? Is driving on your prescription medications illegal?

The short answer is: Yes, you can get a DWI for driving while high in Texas, although there are many complicating factors presented by the presence of illegal drugs and law enforcement’s attitude towards them. 

If the cops stop your hot box, you’re likely to face charges for DWI as well as charges for possession of marijuana — and it only gets more complicated from there. 

The Houston criminal defense lawyers at Thiessen Law Firm have made a name for taking complex DWI and drug cases to court and securing Not Guilty verdicts for our clients. If you or a loved one is facing charges for DWI, drug possession — or both — call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 to begin fighting for your freedom. 

Is driving high the same as drunk driving?

You may have heard the claim that driving high isn’t as dangerous as driving drunk, or that driving while high — depending on the substance in question — doesn’t have the same detrimental impact on your ability to drive a motor vehicle, but these claims are wrong. 

Drugs (yes, even weed) alter your reaction time, perception, attention, and coordination in meaningful ways, and can impair you just as much as alcohol — at least in the eyes of the law. 

One reason that people may feel more comfortable driving while high is the lack of a legal limit for driving high, but this won’t always work in your favor. 

Say you’ve spent a night out with friends and had a few drinks, you get pulled over and breathalyzed, but you blow a .07! You’ve had some drinks, you’ve had a good time, but you’re in the clear. Compare this with a different night out at a friend’s house, one on which you are pulled over after a huge bong rip you took more than two hours ago. You may no longer be very high, but you are very likely to fail the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) tests administered. 

The DRE tests are used to establish intoxication in lieu of having an established legal limit or a way of testing the concentration of drugs in your bloodstream. This means the numbers can’t save you, and it is effectively your word against the arresting officer’s. Because these tests are intended to make it easier to make arrests, and not to accurately measure drug-related intoxication, they were intentionally made to be ridiculously easy to fail. 

Is driving high illegal in Texas?

Driving under the influence of any drug is illegal in almost every single state, although a few states have imposed ‘per se’ laws that establish a legal limit of a few nanograms. Just like state weed laws, which are complex and varied, the laws on driving under the influence of weed are becoming a bit less clear — but in Texas, they make it simple. 

Driving while high in Texas is legally a DWI. Drug-related DWI charges carry the exact same penalties as any other DWI charges in the Lone Star State, but with the additional caveat that law enforcement officers in Texas are often uniquely tough on drugs. 

It might be because even doctors have trouble agreeing on the point at which marijuana begins to impair your judgment, but the zero-tolerance policy seems a bit flawed. It is entirely possible that the DREs will indicate intoxication for people who took an antibiotic, allergy medicine, or other prescription drugs, or even people who aren’t high at all.

If doctors can’t figure out how much weed makes you high, do you think a police officer with a flashlight and pamphlet can? No, they can’t, which is why it is so essential to hire an attorney who knows the law as well as they do the science behind them to defend you. 

Continue reading: What prescription drugs can you not drive on?

Driving while high punishments

Because driving while high will land you with a normal DWI charge, the penalties for driving while high can vary greatly depending on the circumstances of your arrest. The penalties for common DWI offenses are as follows. 

OffenseChargeMaximum fineJail time
First offense DWIClass B misdemeanor$2,0003 – 180 days
Second offense DWIClass A misdemeanor$4,000180 days – 2 years
Third and fourth offense DWIThird-degree felony$10,0002 years – 10 years
DWI with a child passengerState jail felony$10,000180 days – 2 years
Intoxication assaultThird-degree felony$10,0002 years – 10 years
Intoxication manslaughterSecond-degree felony$10,0002 years – 20 years

What’s more, if you’re arrested for driving high and you’re holding some of whatever you’re high on you could also be charged with possession of a controlled substance in Texas.

Possession of a controlled substance in Texas punishments

On top of the severe penalties that accompany a standard DWI charge, drug DWI charges often come with additional penalties for possession of marijuana or possession of a controlled substance. 

ChargeSubstance possessedPunishment
Class C misdemeanorPossession of Drug ParaphernaliaUp to $500 fine
Class B misdemeanorPossession of Marijuana (0-2 oz)Up to 180 days in jail
Class A misdemeanorPossession of Marijuana (2-4 oz) or some medicinesUp to 1 year in jail
State Jail felonyPossession of Marijuana / Oil (4 oz – 5 lbs) Possession of Penalty Group 1 (< 1 gram)6 months – 2 years in jail
Third-degree felonyPossession of Marijuana / Oil (5 lbs – 50 lbs) Possession of Penalty Group 1 (1 – 4 grams)2 – 10 years in prison
Second-degree felonyPossession of Marijuana / Oil (50 lbs – 2000 lbs)Possession of Penalty Group 1 (4 – 200 grams)2 – 20 years in prison
First-degree felonyPossession of Penalty Group 1 (200 – 400 grams)5 years to life in prison
Enhanced first-degree felonyPossession of Penalty Group 1 (over 400 grams)10 years to life in prison

While many municipalities in Texas are electing not to prosecute for personal amounts of marijuana, if they are arresting you for DWI because you were driving while high, you will likely also face a marijuana possession charge. If you want to defend your freedom, you’ll need to work with a lawyer who knows how to get a possession charge dismissed, as well as how to beat a DWI charge in Texas. 

Arrested on suspicion of driving high? Call the Houston drug DWI lawyers at Thiessen Law Firm 

The punishments for driving high are steep, and due to the harsh penalties for possession of controlled substances, can sometimes be even more severe than those for driving drunk.

If you’re facing charges for driving high, make sure you work with a weed DWI lawyer who will actually take your case to fight it, not just plead down or negotiate with the prosecution. Because law enforcement officers are not known for their scientific accuracy when it comes to controlled substances or toxicology, you should consider hiring an ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist. 

“Lawyer-Scientist” is the highest designation given to attorneys by the American Chemical Society, and it means that your attorney will know the science as well as the law, and can protect you from bad police protocol and overzealous prosecution. 

Mark Thiessen is not only an ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist, but he is also the only lawyer in America quadruple board certified in the following:

  1. Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
  2. DUI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense as approved through the American Bar Association
  3. DUI Law by the DUI Defense Lawyers Association
  4. Board Certified Advocate in Criminal Trial Law by the NBTA Foundation

If you or a loved one is facing charges for driving high, call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online to request a consultation. 

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Mark Thiessen

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.