Is Driving While High the Same as Driving While Drunk?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Much is discussed about the consequences of drinking and driving, but what about driving while high? After all, some substances may actually make your head feel clearer than without them. So is driving while high really that bad? 

DUID stands for driving under the influence of drugs and is no less concerning than driving while intoxicated (DWI). In fact, in Texas, DUID is known as DWI. A person is considered “intoxicated” when they have lost the normal use of their mental or physical faculties. Contrary to what some may believe, it doesn’t matter whether you are under the influence of prescription or recreational drugs – any substance that you consume has the ability to impact your judgment and your mental or physical faculties:

  • Decreased reaction time (i.e. failing to brake soon enough)
  • Decreased spatial sense (i.e. turning too late)
  • False perception (i.e. thinking you’re going slower than you are)

Even marijuana, which has seen drastic changes under the law over the past few years, puts you at an almost double increased risk of getting involved in an accident according to some studies.

What Happens if You’re Pulled Over for DWI after consuming marijuana?

What happens if you are pulled over for DWI? Well, there are a few things to know. 

  1. You will likely be tested. Under Texas’ law of implied consent, if you’re arrested while operating a vehicle in public, and the officer arrests you for after having probable cause that you are intoxicated, you have already consented to provide blood or breath.
  2. You don’t have the right to choose your test. While the police officer may provide you with a choice, he or she is not required to.
  3. You still have the right to refuse testing. However, this can be used as evidence against you at trial and could result in an administrative suspension of your Texas driving privileges known as an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) case. 
  4. You must provide a specimen (if you’re going to do so) prior to speaking with an attorney. You don’t have the right to talk to an attorney before you decide whether to consent to testing.

Whether or not you are charged with DWI for marijuana or drug use is dependent upon the State’s ability to quantify the amount of drug or metabolite in your system to prove that you were actually under the influence at the time of driving. Because drugs do not metabolize linearly, it can sometimes be difficult to prove that a person was under the influence of drugs at the time of driving. With marijuana for example, a person could have smoked weeks ago and still have THC or metabolites in his or her bloodstream. Unlike some states, there is no “per se” level of intoxication from marijuana or substances other than alcohol in Texas. 

Defending Yourself

If you are charged with a DWI, it’s important to consult with a qualified Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You may have a legal defense that can help to reduce the charges and penalties against you, such as:

  • Challenging the validity of the blood results to show that they are not accurate or that it cannot be proved that you were under the influence at the time of driving
  • Providing evidence that you were not driving at the time
  • Introducing independent witnesses to testify to you appearing sober at the time

He or she may also suggest that you plead guilty to a lesser charge, such as reckless driving.

Penalties for DWI

The penalties for a DWI conviction are dependent upon whether this is your first offense. A first offense DWI is considered a Class B misdemeanor and can result in 72 hours to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. It can also result in community service, a suspension to your driver’s license, and surcharges of $1000-2000 per year for a period of three years. 

If this is your second offense of DWI, it is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which carries the same penalties but up to twice the amount. A third offense, however, is considered a third-degree felony and can result in 2-10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, even more hours of community service, the suspension of your driver’s license for up to two years, and surcharges for three years. 

The Attorneys at Ceja Law Firm Help Those in Houston Who Have Been Charged with Driving While Under the Influence of Drugs

It’s in your best interest to avoid driving if you have used drugs within the past day or two. However, if you or a loved one has driven and been charged with a DUID, consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced Houston criminal defense attorney can help to inform you of your rights and walk you through the process. 

At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, we understand the serious nature of such a criminal charge and the impact that it can have on one’s life. That’s why we will work to help you obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.
Posted in DWI