While most people think New Jersey DWI/DUI stops and arrests involve alcohol and commonly known controlled dangerous substances (CDS) like heroin and cocaine, it would surprise many who learn that prescription drugs carry the same penalties and are the rising trend in DWI cases. If a police officer stops you for DUI while under the influence of prescription drugs, you can face a 7 month loss of license for a first offense as well as other fines and penalties similar to a .10 alcohol DUI. Simply because the drug is available via prescription DOES NOT mean that the rules to their use and driving with them in your system don't apply. If you think about it logically, alcohol is legal but having too much can get you tagged for a DWI. The problem with prescription drugs is that there is no simple test so show that you are not impaired like there is for alcohol impairment. To the contrary, the police will use their investigative skills and Standard Field Sobriety Tests to make the case that you were under the influence at the time of your arrest. They may also use a trained DRE officer to prove their case. DUI with prescription drugs is still DUI.
Charging A Driver On Prescription Drugs With A DUI
Under New Jersey DUI laws, prescription drugs are included in the legal definition of narcotics. If an individual is charged with DUI having used prescription drugs, it must be proven by the prosecutor beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs were in the driver's system at the time of the traffic stop and arrest and that the individual's driving conduct was influenced by the medication. In cases of prescription drug DUI arrests, the presence of the drugs in the individual's system is identified through a blood or urine test.
It must be proven in court that the driver's impairment was such that he or she was a danger to him or herself and others on the road. If the law enforcement officer suspects the driver of DUI with prescription drugs and finds the drugs in the vehicle, the officer can request that the driver present a valid prescription for the drugs. If the driver cannot provide the prescription there may be additional penalties such as prescription drug possession. A DUI stop for prescription drugs will include the standard field sobriety tests such as walking in a straight line and the one leg stand test.
Sentencing For Prescription Drug DUI
The typical prescription medications that a police officer will look for include Xanax, allergy medications, sleeping pills like Valium, cough syrups, and painkillers such as Vicodin. The sentences for a DUI with prescription drugs vary. If it is the first offense, there can be a jail sentence of 30 days, a suspension of the individual's driver's license for 7 to 12 months, 12 to 48 hours at the intoxicated driver resource center (IDRC), fines of $300 to $500, plus surcharges of at least $3,000.
If there is a second offense within ten years of the first offense, the driver is subject to a jail sentence between 2 days and 3 months, a suspension of the driver's license for 1 to 2 years, installment of an interlock device to be used for 2-4 years, 30 days of community service, 12 to 48 hours at the IDRC, fines between $500 and $1,000 and surcharges of at least $3,000.
For a third offense within ten years of the first two, there can be a 6 month jail sentence, a license suspension for 8 years, installment of an interlock device to be used for 2-4 years, 48 hours at the IDRC, a $1,000 fine and surcharges of at least $4,500.