Should there be a separate crime for driving under the influence of drugs?

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When it comes to the topic of driving under the influence (N.J.S. 39:4-50), there is no distinction in the eyes of the law between driving drunk and driving high. Why is alcohol not illegal and narcotics are?  You have to think of the crime itself, and then it will be clear.  First off, alcohol is technically a drug, as it is a chemical that alters the functionality and chemistry of your brain.  Secondly, driving under the influence simply means that you are operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a brain altering substance.

For this reason, it would not make sense for there to be two different classes of the crime, one for driving under the influence of alcohol and one for driving under the influence of narcotics.  This would simply create stricter penalties for someone possibly facing severe penalties already.  However, if you are charged with driving under the influence of narcotics and you were found in possession of those narcotics you can be facing three additional charges:

  1. Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance N.J.S. 2c:35-10, this is typically a disorderly persons offense for marijuana, but depending on the drug and the amount it can be an indictable offense;
  2. Possession of drug paraphernalia, N.J.S. 2C:36-2, typically a disorderly persons offense, this entails equipment or materials associated with drugs; and
  3. Possession of drugs in a motor vehicle, N.J.S. 39:-4-49.1, this is a traffic offense but can result in a two year loss of license.

The only corollary for driving under the influence of alcohol is if you were found with an open container of alcohol in the car, N.J.S. 39:4-51b.  This is simply a traffic offense without serious consequences other than a monetary fine. 

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.  

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