Dissolving the Myth: Being High Isn’t a Crime – Possession Is

When it comes to the law on drugs, it can be seriously complicated, almost unfairly so. With shifting legality on certain substances, it isn’t getting simpler either. However, there is a lot of misinformation about drug crimes that circulates out there. Primary among these misconceptions is that the mere act of being high is illegal. While in some circumstances it is, in most cases being high isn’t actually a crime.


There are three instances where being under the influence of drugs is an actual crime. These include:

  • When you operate a vehicle
  • When you act intoxicated in public in a disruptive way
  • When you are a danger to others

All of the above are covered by other laws such a DWI statutes, public intoxication statutes, and assault statutes if things turn violent while you are intoxicated. However, if you were to get high at home, go take a walk to the local café, and calmly drink a coffee, there is literally nothing illegal about that. No one can arrest you for being high unless you commit some other crime. Typically where people get tripped up is they are arrested for acting recklessly while intoxicated or from disorderly conduct.


As long as you are behaving in public and not operating a vehicle, being high generally isn’t considered a legal problem. However, it can quickly become one for the reasons mentions above, but also because you have some of your substance of choice on your person at the time. For some illegal drugs, even just having a baggie with a little bit of residue is enough for a possession charge.

The issue about being high is that some people may keep their stash on their person or in their car, even if they used it elsewhere. If you are stopped on suspicion of being intoxicated, be it in a car or on foot, if the police turn up the evidence of drugs on your person or property, it will result in an arrest. Even if you are stopped and not intoxicated at the time, possession is still treated as a very serious crime that they will pursue.


What this all means is that when you were arrested on drug charges, it probably wasn’t the act of being high that got you arrested. If it were, the punishments will likely be minimal, but of course should still be fought. However, if possession of the substance or even the paraphernalia was the cause, this needs to be the focus of your legal defense. Unfortunately, unlike intoxication charges, possession charges will not often come with minimal punishments. The law will often seek to bring the hammer down because it treats drug crimes so seriously.

Your first step, as with any crime, should be to get in touch with the lawyer. In cases of possession, one of the first steps when building a defense should look into the legality of the search. Unlawful searches can be quite common with possession, especially if an officer sees you high, but not technically doing anything illegal. From there, your lawyer will help to bolster that defense to prevent or limit the serious drug charges that come with possession.

If you are in Minnesota and have been charged with possession or any other drug crimes, contact us today. The Speas Law Firm is dedicated to providing the most stalwart criminal defense to make sure people don’t have to deal with the very serious and unfair consequences that come with being charged with a crime.