Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, typically invokes the idea of a drunk driver. But increasingly, the “influence” drivers are under is not alcohol, but drugs—prescription drugs. If you’ve ever taken cold medicine, you know that it can make you sleepy. That’s fine, unless you’re hitting the road instead of hitting the sack. A report released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 33 percent of all fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver. Deaths from heroin and prescription drugs more than doubled last year at the Jersey Shore and a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows the prevalence of driving under the influence from prescription drugs especially in traffic fatalities, is on the rise.
Be safe on the road by being a savvy driver and know the facts about prescription drugs and DUIs:
Prescription medication like painkillers, antidepressants, anxiety meds, and even antihistamines can cause a driver to be impaired. These medications, even if obtained with valid prescriptions and taken according to doctors’ orders, can cause side effects that impair a person’s driving, such as having an effect on depth or distance perception, make one dizzy or foggy, slow reaction time, etc. and law enforcement is keen to their effects. Many of the drugs in these classes are labeled with warnings about driving or operating heavy machinery. It is a driver’s responsibility to ensure that any medications or prescription drugs will not interfere with his or her driving abilities. There may be situations where the effect of a prescription drug may be unforeseeable, and that may be a defense to a charge; but, the mere fact that the substance is a prescription drug is not automatically a defense. If the prescription is mixed with alcohol, it can be an even bigger problem.
The amount doesn’t matter. A person who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or above is considered to be driving under the influence. But since many narcotics are illegal to possess, it does not matter how much someone has ingested for him or her to be considered under the influence. DUI drug offenses in the State of New Jersey are governed by N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a). Anyone who is found to be operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs is subject to just as severe penalties as a DWI and face the possibility of jail time, hefty fines and the loss of your driver’s license. If you are pulled over for suspicion of a DUI violation, New Jersey law enforcement won’t care that you were only drowsy because you had to take an over-the-counter medication. You could face the same charges as a person who was driving under the influence of heroin. Under New Jersey laws, prescription drugs are included in the legal definition of narcotics. So, pay close attention to warning labels on your prescription drugs and heed their advice.
If you are facing a driving under the influence of prescription drugs charge in Ocean County or Monmouth County, New Jersey, you have rights to legal representation and you may be able to fight the DUI charge. Drug charges tend to be more complicated than alcohol cases. If you mistakenly took the wrong pill or were involuntarily drugged without your knowing, you may be off the hook. Get in touch with our knowledgeable DUI attorneys at Villani & DeLuca P.C. today to evaluate your impaired driving case. Contact us today at 732-965-3350 for your free consultation.