DUI – Alcohol is not the only ‘influence’
Posted June 27, 2023
Everybody knows that drunk driving is dangerous and can lead to major legal issues – but what about other substances? Driving while impaired from any substance, including those prescribed to you or recreational drugs such as marijuana or cocaine, could result in a DUI in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. If you find yourself on the defense side of a DUI case, it is important to seek an experienced attorney sooner rather than later.
Prescription drugs that negatively affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle (or other means of conveyance including bicycles and boats) can result in a DUI. It is important to note that not all prescription medication impairs driving abilities, so it is a good idea to consult with your doctor or pharmacist when starting a new medication. In the event you get in trouble for driving under the influence of medication prescribed to you that impacts driving ability, you could face penalties similar to those that come with drunk driving, including license suspensions, fines, or even imprisonment in severe or repeated offenses. There are nuanced legal arguments and experts that can assist a DUI defendant under these circumstances.
The legality of driving while high on marijuana can be confusing because of the rapidly evolving legality of the drug itself. In New Jersey, recreational and medicinal marijuana is legal for adults to purchase, but that does not mean driving while high is allowed. While recreational marijuana is not legal in Pennsylvania, medicinal marijuana is, and can result in a DUI even though its purpose is medical. In fact, in NJ “impairment” must be proven (oftentimes by a police officer certified as a Drug Recognition Expert/Evaluator) but in Pennsylvania, this requirement has yet to be imposed. Hence, the mere presence of THC in the blood can result in a DUI conviction. Also in Pennsylvania, having a medical marijuana card is not, in and of itself, a defense to a DUI prosecution. Driving high in either state can lead to the same penalties listed above, and in Pennsylvania, you could face charges for possession of recreational marijuana due to the substance being illegal for those without proper medical referral. In NJ, it is a separate offense for driving while in possession of a CDS which carries a mandatory 2-year license suspension.
Common drugs used recreationally, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and hallucinogens like mushrooms or acid can severely affect your ability to safely drive, and lead to big legal problems if you were to get caught. As noted above, potential penalties typically depend on the severity of impairment and the number of offenses. In NJ, if you are caught driving while suspended after a DUI conviction, you could be charged with a felony exposing you to up to 18-months in jail. Other charges that could follow in either state include endangering the welfare of your child if a passenger and drug possession offenses.
Regardless of what substance led to DUI charges, it is imperative that anyone in this position consult an attorney. At Florio Perrucci, we pride ourselves in being advocates for our clients. Please feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to be your advocate.
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