How Police In Denton Can Determine if a Driver is High On Marijuana
If you think driving in Texas while high on marijuana won’t get you in trouble, you’re wrong. This is no less a crime than drunk driving, and in fact the same law applies since all intoxicating substances are covered under the law, and this includes marijuana.
Texas has some of the most stringent laws in the country regarding the consumption of marijuana. Using marijuana for recreational purposes is illegal in Texas. Furthermore, marijuana used for medical purposes can only contain a very limited amount of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.
What’s interesting is that most people who use marijuana believe that there is no way to tell whether or not a driver is high on marijuana. Is this true?
Can Drivers be Tested for Being High on Marijuana?
There are no standardized roadside tests in Texas that drivers can be asked to submit to for marijuana intoxication. So, for an officer to determine whether someone is driving while high, they have to rely on visible signs of impairment. These tests are carried out in Texas by Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) who undertake a 12-step process:
- Having the driver take a breathalyzer test to rule out alcohol consumption.
- Questioning the police officer on the scene to obtain information about how the driver was behaving when detained.
- Asking the driver about any current medications they are taking and what foods and/or drinks they’ve consumed.
- Examining the driver’s eyes for signs of intoxication like a lack of convergence and/or vertical or horizontal gaze nystagmus.
- Having the driver take standard Field Sobriety Tests: walking and turning, standing on one leg, placing finger on nose, and a Romberg test for balance.
- Checking the driver’s blood pressure and pulse and taking his/her temperature.
- Measuring the size of the driver’s pupils under various levels of light.
- Testing the driver’s muscles to determine if they’re rigid or flaccid.
- Examining the driver’s arms for needle injection sites while checking his/her pulse.
- Advising the driver of his/her Miranda rights before asking him/her about their use of drugs and marijuana.
- Determining whether probable cause exists for believing that the driver is indeed impaired.
- Placing the driver under arrest in order to conduct some laboratory tests on his/her urine, blood, and saliva.
It is important to understand that many of the roadside tests being conducted by law enforcement are not known to be efficient nor do they always provide accurate results. Furthermore, drivers have the right to refuse to submit to non-chemical breath alcohol concentration (BAC) tests.
Compared to roadside tests, lab tests are certainly more thorough, but that does not mean the results are indisputably accurate. In fact, lab tests are known to have a number of serious shortcomings, including dating.
Marijuana is known to be fat-soluble. Therefore, when THC goes into the bloodstream it stays stored with fat for a number of days, weeks, or months after having been smoked. Studies show that when someone smokes marijuana it can remain in the bloodstream for as long as 30 days and stay for several months in the user’s hair. This means that the driver whose fluids were tested may have smoked marijuana 30 days prior, but the test would still show a positive result.
Marijuana-Related DUI Charges in Texas
The DUI law in Texas is the same for marijuana use as it is for alcohol consumption. Both substances lead to intoxication, which impairs the ability to drive safely.
The penalties that people risk in Texas when driving a vehicle high on marijuana depend on how many times they’ve been arrested for this offense. Also, the penalties become more severe if the driver has been previously convicted of a DUI when under the influence of another intoxicant like alcohol. Basically, a DUI does not differ depending on the substance that caused impaired driving.
First Marijuana-Related DUI
Being arrested the first time for a DUI related to marijuana use can get you incarcerated for three days if you’re lucky, or up to six months if you’re not. In addition, you may be fined by the court up to $2,000 and your driver’s license can be suspended for up to a year.
Second Marijuana-Related DUI
Your second DUI related to marijuana use can result in being incarcerated for 30 days or up to 1 year. In addition, you may have to pay a fine of up to $4,000 and have your driver’s license suspended for anywhere from six months to as long as two years.
Third Marijuana-Related DUI
If you are subsequently convicted for the same thing, you will be charged with a Third Degree Felony, and this will result in much harsher penalties. To begin with, you may be sentenced to as long as 10 years in prison. In addition, you could be fined as much as $10,000 and have your driver’s license suspended for two years.
How to Fight DUI Charges Related to Marijuana Use in Texas
Luckily, there are ways to fight the strict marijuana laws in Texas and avoid having to face such severe penalties. Since the roadside tests the police administer do not always give accurate results nor do the lab tests, you start out with an advantage. For example, if the arresting officer testifies that your eyes looked red when he/she pulled you over, you can counter that by claiming that you were simply tired. In the end though, you will need a highly experienced attorney with a track record of successfully fighting DUI charges in Texas, which is why you need to call Dan K. Peugh for a free consultation.