A driver in New Jersey may be subject to charges for driving while intoxicated (DWI) even if that individual has not consumed a drop of alcohol prior to getting behind the wheel. That is because the state enforces DWI penalties against drivers who operate while under the influence of prescription drugs. Charges may apply regardless of whether the driver had a legal prescription for the medication in question.

Being charged with DWI can be a stressful and frightening experience for any driver in New Jersey. A DWI conviction can have a far-reaching impact on your career, finances and personal life. Penalties range from fines to loss of driving privileges to jail time.

There are options in the face of such serious charges. A DWI defense attorney can offer guidance on how best to preserve your rights. With respect to your immediate concerns, we have offered information below to help you take steps to protect your future in the face of DWI charges.

Can I be charged with DWI for driving after taking prescription drugs?

New Jersey’s drunk driving/DWI laws and penalties are outlined in the state’s traffic statutes (specifically N.J.S.A. 39:4-50). This law does not limit the definition of DWI to alcohol, but rather: “a person who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug.” The law provides a wide interpretation of which prescription drugs qualify as intoxicating.

Police may arrest you for driving while taking such legal prescription drugs as:

  • pain relievers (such as OxyContin, codeine);
  • antidepressants;
  • sleeping medications;
  • sedatives; and
  • more.

Note that the law further states you may be charged with DWI if you knowingly allow a person who is under the influence of prescription drugs to operate a vehicle that is under your custody. This means you can be legally responsible for someone else’s actions when that person operates your vehicle with your permission.

What are the penalties for a DWI conviction in New Jersey?

The penalties for a prescription drug DWI depend on the circumstances of the arrest and whether it was your first such charge.

For instance, the potential penalties for a first-time DWI offense include:

  • $250-$400 fine;
  • up to 30 days imprisonment;
  • loss of driver’s license for as much as three months;
  • 12-48 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center; and
  • increase of automotive insurance rates by $1,000 a year for three years.

Penalties increase with each subsequent offense. Fines and jail time also increase in the event the DWI occurred within a school zone or at a school crossing. A DWI defense lawyer can examine the facts of your case to determine your likely penalties and the most effective course of defense.

Who can help me to protect my rights when I am facing DUI charges?

You have the right to seek help from a DWI attorney. Call Dash Farrow LLP in New Jersey at (856) 235-8300 to schedule a confidential case consultation.