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New Jersey Drugged Driving Laws

New Jersey is among the states that have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana; however, it is still illegal to drive while intoxicated by marijuana, prescription drugs, and any other controlled substances in this state.

The penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are the same in New Jersey as the penalties for driving while intoxicated by alcohol. For a first offense, this includes:

  • License revocation of three months
  • $500 maximum fine
  • Possible jail time
  • Increased car insurance rates
  • $1,000 per year surcharge by the Motor Vehicle Commission

Any DWI will appear on your driving record for the rest of your life.

Drugged Driving Cases

In this post, I want to highlight some NJ cases that pertain to drugged driving. In State v. Tamburro, it was ruled that if sufficient expert testimony of the physical and mental condition of an individual indicated that he/she was “under the influence” of a narcotic, then it is not necessary that the particular drug be identified.

So this could pose a problem for people who take doctor prescribed medications. The drug need not be identified, which means the person can be convicted of using medications just the same way as a person who is taking street drugs.

Many times a person on allergic medications can exhibit symptoms of blood-shot, watery eyes, and a raspy voice. And even if a blood or urine test is taken, the drug—whether it is marijuana or a prescription medication—can remain in the system long after the impairing effects have worn off. Innocent people are being prosecuted for just that: driving after having taken doctor prescribed medication, including many painkillers, cough medicines and allergy pills that are do not impair a driver. It also depends on the person’s body size and resistance to side effects.

In another case, State v Tiernan, a prior conviction for driving under the influence of drugs was reversed and the officer’s testimony thrown out. It was ruled that a police officer is not qualified as a drug recognition expert by the fact that he completed mandatory narcotics training and took subsequent week-long narcotics course. The ruling highlights the plain truth that most officers have only received basic training in drug recognition, not like Drug Recognition Experts who undergo intensive training. Then, based on the officer’s observations of what he perceives to be symptoms of impairment, the case is taken to court. It would take a DRE to come to the scene and examine you to determine if you were unfit to drive.

Defending DWI Drug Cases

We will challenge what expertise the officer had in determining impairment and if the officer looked for physical signs such as abnormal pulse rate or abnormal pupil dilation. Your attorney will obtain evidence, such as the pharmacology of the prescription drug, showing that your driving was not impaired, and possibly present other causes of impairment.

The second step would be to analyze the validity of the scientific evidence. Our attorneys will conduct an investigation into whether the blood or urine sample was accurately measured by the police. Due to improper use, sample contamination, or negligent laboratory procedures, the results may be proven to be unreliable. We will question the chain of custody and the handling of the sample.

Although the number of DWI drugs cases is rising steadily, many prosecutors are finding it increasingly difficult to convict against suspects charged with a DWI involving prescription drugs. You want expert attorneys on your side. We will fight for you to the fullest extent of the law.