When people hear the word DWI, they associate this crime with alcohol. But over the course of the last few years, a new type of DWI charge has become a huge issue for law enforcement: prescription drug-related DWIs. There's been a large spike in prescription drug DWIs that has caused law enforcement across the country to shift their focus from solely seeking indicators of alcohol intoxication to looking for signs of prescription drug impairment. This phenomenon has been coined as “drugged driving.”
New Jersey is one among many states who have begun prioritizing and enforcing prescription drug DWI laws to deter drugged driving. As a result, police officers have become overzealous when it comes to pulling people over that they suspect to be under the influence of a substance. Many people are under the impression that just because prescription drugs are lawfully prescribed, that they can't be arrested for a DWI, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Prescribed drugs can still land you a DWI in the state of New Jersey. These charges can expose you to penalties that could lead to the loss of your driving privileges, costly fines, or even a jail sentence.
If you've been charged with a prescription drug DWI in New Jersey, it's imperative you understand what you're up against. The more you know about the state's laws and penalties, the more prepared you'll be to deal with this situation effectively. Seeking counsel when facing a criminal charge is always a good decision. In this article, we'll address everything you need to know about prescription drug DWIs.
New Jersey Prescription Drug DWI Laws
New Jersey doesn't limit the definition of a DWI to alcohol. According to statutory law (N.J.S.A 39:4-50), it is against the law to drive while impaired by the effects of prescription drugs. The law describes a DWI offender as “a person who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug.”
Prescription drugs are included in the legal definition of narcotics. In order to be convicted of a DWI of this nature, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs were in your system at the time of the traffic stop and arrest and that the motorist's driving conduct was potentially dangerous to himself or herself because of the consumption of this medication.
The law highlights certain prescription drugs that can qualify as intoxicating:
- Cough syrup
- Sleeping aid medication
- Allergy medication
- Painkillers & muscle relaxants
Although these prescriptions may be prescribed to you and are completely legal, it doesn't exempt you from being charged with a DWI. It's also important to note that if unprescribed drugs are found in the vehicle upon arrest, motorists may be charged with additional crimes like illegal drug possession on top of a DWI.
Prescription Drug DWI Penalties in New Jersey
The legal penalties for a prescription drug DWI depend on the circumstances of your arrest and whether or not you have a criminal record.
If you were caught with prescription drugs in your system while behind the wheel, here's what you should expect:
First Offense Prescription Drug DWI
- A jail sentence of up to 30 days
- A fine of $300 to $500
- The suspension of your license for between 7 months and a year
- The potential installation of an ignition interlock device for 6 months to a year
Second Offense Prescription Drug DWI
- A jail sentence of up to 90 days
- A fine of $500 to $1,000
- The suspension of your license for up to two years
- The potential installation of an ignition interlock device for up to 2 years
Third Offense Prescription Drug DWI
- A jail sentence of up to 6 months
- A fine of $1,000
- The suspension of your license for up to 10 years
In a prescription drug DWI case, your fate is entirely in a judge's hands. They have the discretion to cut you a break or carry out the full extent of the law. Their decision will solely be based on the nature of your arrest, your criminal history, your BAC, the officer's testimony, and other relevant factors. These penalty guidelines are strictly suggested for guidance, it doesn't mean that your outcome will necessarily be as such.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
Taking prescription drugs while driving can put you in a bad situation. But if it's proven that your arrest was unlawful or an officer's actions strayed from protocol, there's a good chance your charges could be dismissed.
With so much on the line, the best thing you can do is contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney. The sooner a legal representative can get on your case, the more time they have to build a solid defense. In New Jersey, a DWI is an offense that requires skilled and aggressive representation.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired DWI charges. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.