If the drug is legal are you guilty of driving under the influence?

///If the drug is legal are you guilty of driving under the influence?
Are you guilty of 39:4-50 if you consumed prescription medicine?Imagine a scenario in which you have just undergone a medical procedure requiring surgery.  You are discharged from the hospital, and given a prescription for a powerful painkiller, should you experience pain at home.  You pick up your prescription, and then you get home.  You start to feel pain and take one of the painkillers that your doctor prescribed. After you take the prescription, you get a call from your child asking you to come pick them up from the mall. On the way there however you are pulled over by a police officer and they arrest you for a DUI.  What you didn’t realize was that while your doctor prescribed the narcotic you took, it is still considered illegal to drive while under the influence of these medications.

Painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone are legal when prescribed by a doctor, but they still affect the chemistry of your brain.  This can make it much harder for you to make certain decisions that come with driving.  By slowing your judgment, you are more likely to get into an accident, and this is the reason it is still illegal to drive while under the influence of these drugs.

The problem with N.J.S. 39:4-50 (Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol) is that your intent is not a factor.  Just saying you didn’t know or intend to drive under the influence isn’t good enough.  In the above scenario, you didn’t just a leave a bar after 10 beers to go pick up your kid.  You were home resting and probably were not aware or didn’t consider that the drug could affect your judgment.  That doesn’t change the fact that you did in fact drive under the influence of a legal drug.

Ignorance of the law isn’t enough.  People should be made more aware of the dangers that come with driving under the influence of these painkillers, and should also be made more aware of the fact that it is illegal to do so.  This can be done a number of ways.  For example, should your doctor tell you when they prescribe the medication?  What about the pharmacist remind you when you pick up the medication?  The medication itself probably has the warning, but is it prominently displayed? At the end of the day it is your responsibility.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t take extra effort to make sure that you know what you are getting into.  

Irrespective of whether you are convicted of a DUI (N.J.S. 39:4-50) because of drugs or alcohol your insurance will be affected.  Since your license will be suspended from three months to 10 years (depending on your prior history) you will have to find an alternative way to get to work, if you are convicted.  A DUI lawyer can potentially save you from these severe consequences.  

Free Resources for you

If you are charged with a DUI you need to know your options before going to court.  On this page you will see an offer for my books, click the link, put your name and contact information and we will give you these books free:

  1. Arrested for Drunk Driving?  Learn how to Beat the Odds – Here I discuss defense strategies, and common mistakes I see other attorneys make in defending these complicated cases.  I also list for your question you should ask any attorney that you interview for your defense.
  2. Why Pleading Guilty to Your New Jersey Traffic Ticket is NOT an Option – Here I discuss court process and violations, including DUI’s.  There lots of case examples here.
  3. An Immigrant’s Guide to Municipal Court.  This discusses specifically what you will encounter in  Municipal Court if you aren’t a U.S. citizen and how it can result in removal proceedings in Immigration Court.  I define important terms and guide you through the Municipal Court and Immigration Court process.

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