Drug-based DWI offenses carry substantial penalties for first-time offenders.  For minors, the penalties can be even more severe, especially for drug-based DWIs.  These offenses could also come with additional penalties if you have drugs on you when you are pulled over.  Many teens and young adults are charged with drugged driving offenses each year, and it is important to discuss your case with an experienced Atlantic City DWI lawyer if you are facing charges.  The criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych offer free consultations to help with new cases.

Underage Drugged Driving Offenses in NJ

New Jersey’s driving while intoxicated (DWI) statute makes it illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  This statute, N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50, creates two “tiers” of DWI.  The first tier covers general drunk driving and drunk driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) over .08%.  The second tier covers drunk driving with a BAC of over .10% and general drugged driving.  Under this structure, drugged driving is automatically treated as the most severe form of DWI.

Marijuana is considered a controlled substance under New Jersey law.  This means that it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.  Even if the marijuana was legally obtained, such as through a medical marijuana prescription, it is still illegal to drive while under the influence.

For minors, there is an additional DWI statute that lowers the threshold for underage DWI offenses.  Under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50.14, the BAC threshold for drunk driving changes to .01%, an extremely low amount of alcohol.  This statute specifically covers BACs of .01% to .08%, meaning that DWIs with a BAC over .08% or .10% are punished normally under the standard DWI offense.  This also means that this lowered threshold for underage DWI does not apply to drugged driving offenses.  Because drugged driving already has the highest level of penalties, there are no increased penalties for underaged drugged driving.

Keep in mind that you can also face additional charges if you are arrested for DWI while you have even a small amount of marijuana in your possession.  Whether you have fresh or burnt marijuana, marijuana possession is a separate offense on top of the offense for driving under the influence.  In addition, any items used for marijuana, such as containers, rolling papers, bongs, vapes, etc., qualify as drug paraphernalia and may also justify additional charges for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Juvenile Penalties for Marijuana DWI

When you are arrested for an offense as a minor under the age of 18, your case is usually handled through the juvenile justice system rather than the criminal justice system.  Rather than being “found guilty,” you may be “adjudicated delinquent” on these charges.  Police may arrest you and take you to jail for holding as part of DWI charges, but if you are adjudicated delinquent on these charges, you may spend time in a juvenile detention facility instead of jail or prison.

For an adult, DWI offenses always carry potential jail time, a driver’s license suspension, fines, fees, and driver’s education and screening requirements.  Judges may order additional terms of probation, such as community service or continued supervision in some cases.

In a juvenile case, the penalties are not set in stone.  Instead, a judge or someone appointed in their stead to hear juvenile cases decides the penalties.  In many juvenile cases, an adjudication will end with the juvenile being placed on probation.  This will include supervision by a juvenile probation officer (JPO), random and scheduled drug testing, terms of supervision, and a requirement that they stay free from additional crime.

During this process, you have the right to an adjudication hearing.  This is the juvenile justice equivalent of a trial, and you have the right to hire a juvenile defense lawyer to represent you in your case.  This case involves the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and evidence, present evidence that cuts against the government’s case and present witnesses in your favor.  The judge decides the ultimate question of whether you committed the offense, rather than a jury.  The hearing will consider drug charges and the DWI offense separately.

Fighting New Jersey DWI Cases

When you are pulled over for DWI, the police have already started investigating the case.  From the moment police observe your driving, they may notice you committing other traffic offenses, swerving, or otherwise driving unsafely.  Police use this, along with other evidence they observe, as evidence of your drugged driving.  The odor of burnt marijuana, dilated pupils, lethargic or slow responses, confusion, and inability to perform field sobriety tests can all be evidence that you were driving under the influence.  In addition, police may request a warrant for a blood test to check if there are drugs in your system.  This is the kind of evidence your attorney may be able to challenge in court.

Atlantic City DWI Defense Lawyer Offering Free Consultations for Juvenile Marijuana Cases

If you or your child was charged as a juvenile for drugged driving offenses or any other criminal offense, talk to the Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today.  Our attorneys offer free consultations to help you understand the charges against you, how to fight the charges, and what the potential penalties might be.  For a free, confidential consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.