Can You Be Charged with a DWI in New Jersey from Prescription Medication?

A person may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) if they are so impaired that they cannot drive safely. While DWIs are often associated with alcohol consumption, other substances may lead to DWI charges.

DUI and DWI charges are assessed based on multiple factors. When these charges involve alcohol, drivers may be required to submit to a post-arrest chemical test, like a breathalyzer, to measure their blood alcohol content (BAC). In cases where drivers are under the influence of substances other than alcohol, like prescription drugs, blood testing may be necessary. Even so, a police officer can arrest a suspect they believe is too intoxicated to drive safely, regardless of BAC. This means drivers may be charged with a DWI if they are under the influence of prescription medications. How you defend yourself depends on your unique situation. In many cases, drivers were unaware of the intoxicating nature of their medicine and did not mean to drive while intoxicated.

If you have recently been charged with a DWI related to prescription drug use, our New Jersey DWI defense lawyers can help you fight the charges. For a free case assessment, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.

How DWI and DUI Charges Are Determine in New Jersey

People tend to associate DWI charges with alcohol consumption. While alcohol is perhaps one of the more common reasons why drivers are charged with DWIs, it is not the only reason. Drivers can also be charged for driving with drugs in their system, including prescription drugs that might otherwise be legal. Our Atlantic City DWI defense lawyers can assist you in your case and help you fight these charges.

DWI charges tend to be based on how intoxicated the driver was and how many DWIs they have on their record. Generally, drivers who are more intoxicated and have a history of DWIs will face harsher charges and stiffer penalties. In most cases, drivers face losing their licenses, paying fines, and possibly going to jail.

Ordinarily, a driver’s level of intoxication is based on their BAC measured by a breath test or chemical testing. Since chemical testing only measures BAC, it is not a good measure of other drugs or controlled substances. As such, DWIs from prescription medication are measured a bit differently.

Chemical testing for drivers suspected of being under the influence of prescription drugs can be more challenging, as it often requires a blood draw and testing by medical professionals. As such, the police may arrest the driver for a DUI or DWI if they reasonably believe the driver is so intoxicated that they cannot safely drive, and testing may be conducted shortly after. Something like a breath test would be inappropriate and likely not administered. Once your blood is tested, no minimum threshold must be met. Any amount of drugs, prescription or otherwise, in your system may be grounds for a DUI or DWI.

Potential Penalties for a DWI or DUI from Prescription Medicine?

Charges for DWIs related to alcohol and controlled substances can be found under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50. For a first offense, in the case of someone driving while under the influence of controlled substances such as prescription medicine, the driver may have to pay a fine of at least $300 but not more than $500. They may also lose their license for at least 7 months and up to a year and face up to 30 days in jail.

For a second DWI related to prescription drugs or other controlled substances, the driver may face a greater fine of at least $500 but no more than $1,000. They might also lose their driver’s license for at least 1 year and up to 2 years. Finally, the driver might face at least 48 hours and up to 90 days in jail. A third violation may lead to a $1,000 fine, at least 180 days in jail, drug and alcohol counseling, and losing your license for 8 years.

The penalties for DWIs, alcohol or not, are very serious. Our Brigantine DWI defense lawyers can help you fight the charges and hopefully help you keep your license and avoid jail time.

Chemical Testing by Law Enforcement in DUI or DWI Cases for Prescription Drugs in New Jersey?

As mentioned earlier, DWIs are often based on chemical testing results and BAC measurements. In cases where DWIs are based on drug use, including prescription drugs, chemical testing usually requires a blood draw and testing, as breathalyzers do not test for drugs. Chemical testing for prescription medicine is trickier because the police often do not know what kind of drugs to test for. Instead, DWIs are usually based on police observations during the traffic stop. Our Brooklawn DWI defense attorneys can help you if you were recently charged.

The police will often look for signs of intoxication almost immediately. Slurred speech, jerky movements, and an inability to focus are red flags that the police look for. They might ask you to perform roadside tests, like walking in a straight line or standing on one leg, to see if you are too intoxicated to drive. They might also ask you questions about what medications you might be on and whether they interfere with your driving ability.

Defending Yourself Against DUIs and DWIs from Prescription Medication in New Jersey

How our team can help defend you from these charges varies based on your unique circumstances. In many cases, drivers might have ingested prescription medications but were unaware of the intoxicating effects. This is sometimes the case when drivers take new medications or have recently changed their dosage. Although this does not change the fact that the driver was behind the wheel while intoxicated by prescription medicine, it might make a court more sympathetic to their plight. We might persuade the prosecutor to drop or reduce the charges in such a case.

In other cases, the police might have insufficient probable cause to arrest the driver. DWIs for prescription drugs are based more on police observations than scientific measurements. Sometimes, the police administer roadside tests in ways that cannot yield conclusive results or provide enough probable cause to arrest. For example, if the police asked you to walk an imaginary straight line to test balance, those test results alone cannot be used to prove you were under the influence. There are too many factors other than prescription drugs (e.g., medical conditions, uneven surface, the line was on an incline)that might be why you cannot walk a straight line. We can similarly help you poke holes in the probable cause claimed by the police, challenge the scant evidence presented, and hopefully have your charges thrown out.

Call Our New Jersey DUI and DWI Defense Lawyers for Help Now

DWIs may be charged even when alcohol is not involved. Prescription drugs may also leave drivers so intoxicated that they cannot drive. Our Haddonfield DWI defense lawyers can help you defend yourself against these charges and clear your name. For a free case review, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.

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