Prescription Drug DWI in NJ

Prescription Drug DUIIn New Jersey, an individual can be charged with a prescription drug DWI/DUI, which includes antidepressants, sleeping pills, and pain medication.  Even if you have a legal prescription, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that it is against the state’s DWI laws to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of such medications.

A recent example was the Appellate Division’s ruling on a case out of Greenwich Township.  In 2008, the defendant was pulled over for driving erratically after leaving the Hunterdon Medical Center Emergency Room in Flemington, NJ.  The officer noticed that Eaton had watery eyes and exhibited alarming symptoms, such as shaky hands and considerable difficulty in responding to the officer’s questions.  He was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and tested at the New Jersey State Police barracks, where it was discovered that he was under the influence of several substances, including Phenobarbital, Prozac, lidocaine and Ambien.

Since these drugs have been proven to depress the central nervous system, the court ruled that the defendant could not have driven safely, thus making him guilty of a prescription drug DWI in NJ.  The defendant countered that he had only driven out of necessity, but his appeal to the Superior Court was rejected since it was determined that he could have waited until he got home before taking the medications.  Even if it was necessary to take the medications at the hospital, the defendant should have called a taxi or arranged for someone to pick him up.

Penalties for a Prescription Drug DUI

New Jersey holds individuals who are caught driving under the influence of prescription drugs to the same degree of responsibility as a drunk driver.  The courts impose strict penalties for a prescription drug DWI in NJ, such as loss of driving privileges for 7 months to a year, mandatory participation in an IDRC (Intoxicated Driver Resource Center), fines and surcharges, and possible jail time— even for a first offense.  If you have a previous DWI conviction on your record, you may lose your license for two years and face a mandatory jail sentence of up to three months.  Your conviction will also be permanently listed on your driver’s abstract, since DWI offenses are not eligible for expungement.

Hire a Trained Attorney to Defend Your NJ DUI Charge

Although DWI’s are not criminal offenses in New Jersey, a conviction can still disqualify you from certain jobs and make it extremely difficult for you to afford auto insurance.  DUI charges have serious consequences, which you should discuss with an attorney prior to your hearing date.  An experienced lawyer can also review your case to ensure that your rights were not violated.  For example, police have strict protocol that must be followed in the administration of field sobriety and breath tests.  Having an attorney trained in field sobriety testing is important.

If you have been convicted of a prescription drug DWI in NJ, please speak with the knowledgeable attorneys of Villani & DeLuca.  Partner Carmine Villani has over two decades of experience in both the prosecution and defense of cases involving prescription drug DWI in NJ.  He is also trained on the proper administration of standardized field sobriety tests in New Jersey.  Please call (732) 965-3350 to schedule your free consultation!