Driving Under Drug Influence

In New Jersey, cases involving driving under the influence of drugs are prosecuted in much the same way as DWI cases involving alcohol. The key is whether the drug causes a sufficient level of mental or physical impairment at the time of driving.

Being under the influence of either alcohol or drugs is defined as physical or mental impairment such that the driver is not able to drive with the same caution as a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances. Depending on the case, it may not matter whether the drug is legal or illegal, prescribed or over-the-counter. It is possible to be convicted of driving under the influence of cold medicine, cocaine or any other substance (whether legal or not) that causes impairment. Many people mistakenly believe that if a doctor prescribes a drug, they are allowed to drive while taking this drug. This can be a mistake with rather severe consequences.

Unlike DWI alcohol cases, there is no numerical blood measurement (“per se” limit) involving drugs. The prosecutor will try to prove the motorist was driving under the influence of drugs by introducing evidence related to driving patterns, physical signs and symptoms, Field Sobriety Test performance and chemical test results, if available. There are certain law enforcement officers who have received training to assist in determining whether or not someone is under the influence of drugs. They are called DREs, or Drug Recognition Evaluators. DREs are brought in to examine a suspected motorist and are supposed to follow certain protocols in their evaluations. A skilled DWI defense lawyer is often able to demonstrate that proper evaluation procedures were not followed, that the supposed signs and symptoms of impairment were ambiguous or that the signs and symptoms

examined by the DREs were just as consistent with non-impairment as they would be with impairment.

Being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have serious and lifelong consequences. The first step in avoiding these consequences, or cushioning their impact, is consultation with a DWI defense lawyer who is skilled in shielding his or her clients

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