Can I be Arrested and Charged With DWI on Marijuana in North Carolina?

Charlotte DWI Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Is there more than one way for police to charge a person with DWI?”


Some people assume that you can be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) only when you are impaired by alcohol. In reality, however, you can be arrested for operating a vehicle while impaired by marijuana or any other impairing substance (N.C.G.S. § 20-138.1).

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana in North Carolina, do not hesitate to contact a Charlotte criminal defense lawyer to build a strong defense.


no-smoking-marijuana-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Criminal-defense-lawyer-300x225How Do the Police Determine Marijuana Impairment?

For years, courts have struggled to enforce per se limits to determine marijuana impaired driving. If you have any traces of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, in your system, you may be convicted of DWI.

If the police officer has reasonable suspicion that you are impaired by marijuana or any other impairing drug or substance, he/she can perform field sobriety tests to determine the level of impairment. The field sobriety tests include:

  • Walk-and-turn test
  • One-leg stand test
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test

The officer may also ask you to submit to a breath test to show the presence of alcohol in your body. Even if you pass the breath test, but the officer believes that you are impaired, the officer may arrest you for further testing.

The police may require you to submit to a blood test to check for the presence of THC, alcohol, or any other substances or drugs in your system. If the blood test shows traces of THC, you may face a DWI marijuana conviction.

Note: Blood tests do not provide results immediately. It may take weeks to determine the presence of any impairing substances in the driver’s blood.


When Can I be Convicted of DWI on Drugs in North Carolina?

As mentioned earlier, marijuana impairment cannot usually be determined with the help of a breath test or field sobriety tests. In most cases, a blood test and the evaluation of a Drug Recognition Expert are necessary to determine marijuana impairment and convict a driver of DWI on drugs.

You may be convicted of DWI on drugs in North Carolina if you consume any of the following:

  • Marijuana, LSD, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or other controlled substances;
  • Psychoactive substances or drugs that affect your ability to operate a vehicle safely; or
  • A combination of the aforementioned substances.

Certain prescription drugs may also fall under the definition of an “impairing substance” and may result in a DWI on drugs conviction in North Carolina.


What are the Penalties for DWI on Drugs in North Carolina?

Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may face either a misdemeanor or felony conviction for driving while under the influence of drugs.

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalties depend on the level assigned to your case. The levels of misdemeanors vary from one DWI case to another based on:

  • The level of impairment;
  • The prior offenses on your record; and
  • The circumstances of your arrest.

The penalties range from spending at least 24 hours in jail and paying a fine of up to $200 for a Level 5 Misdemeanor to spending a minimum of 30 days in jail and paying a maximum fine of $4,000 for a Level 1 Misdemeanor.

If your DWI is classified as a felony, you will face harsher penalties. Contact an experienced attorney to address the DWI charges and help you explore your options. Speak with our Charlotte criminal defense lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, today. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.





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