Neighboring State Issues DWI Rule in Court Opinion

It seems that state by state we are seeing the legalization of marijuana in one form or another. Whether a state issues a law legalizing it for recreation (Colorado) or a state is more conservative, making it legal to use hemp oil for epilepsy (Utah), marijuana consumption in one form or another is becoming more accepted across the United States. Of course, the ingestion of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but the issue continues to take the country by storm.

With the increased ingestion of marijuana across the country, the question arises about when the use of marijuana can lead to driving while intoxicated. Even when a person is on legally prescribed drugs, they are still prohibited from driving when that use impedes their ability to safely operate a vehicle. But is there a standard with marijuana consumption that means a person is guilty of DWI?

In Texas this issue is clear. Texas Penal Code Section 49.01 penalizes drivers who, because of drug use (including marijuana), do not have the normal use of their mental or physical faculties. This means that any amount of marijuana could cause someone to get a DWI in Texas. But a neighbor state is taking a different approach.

Arizona Deals with Marijuana and DWI

A recently decided case in Arizona presented the issue of DWI of a driver who had ingested legally prescribed marijuana. The Supreme Court in this case had to balance the public safety issue of drivers driving while intoxicated by marijuana and citizen of that state’s right to use marijuana as a medicine.

Prosecutors in this case wanted the state’s supreme court to adopt a hardline stance against marijuana use and driving. The problem with that approach is that people react differently to different amount of marijuana and it is not as easy to test marijuana level when compared to alcohol. Almost uniformly across the U.S. a .08 BAC is the standard by which a driver is considered intoxicated, but the same standard does not exist for marijuana use.

The Arizona Supreme Court decided that the state had to prove that the amount of marijuana ingested represented an impairment. This shifted the standard of proof and burden to prosecutors when the driver can show that they ingested the marijuana legally. In legal terms this is known as an affirmative defense and can be an effective tool against getting a conviction.

Defending a DWI in Texas

When it comes to defending DWIs in Texas, the law is not the same as Arizona, but there are many affirmative defenses available to DWI defendants. At the Wilder DWI Defense Firm our team of experienced DWI defenders will comb over every piece of evidence in your case, analyze the facts with the law, and come up with an effective defense plan with you. If trial is the best course of action, we are the team you want on your side in court. If you have been charged with DWI in the Dallas area, contact us. We look forward to going over your legal options with you.