Garden State DUI Update: Driving While Legally Medicated Can Still Lead to a Drug DUI

There is no doubt that drinking and driving is an activity that happens with extreme frequency here in New Jersey. As Garden State DWI defense attorneys, my highly skilled legal staff has many years of representing motorists charged with being intoxicated behind the wheel of a motor vehicle on the roadways, interstates and highways of our state. While most people typically associate a DUI charge as being alcohol-related, a fair number of police arrests for impaired driving involve some kind of drug.

Of course, one person’s illicit drug may be another’s legal medication. And while there are more than a few arrests for drug DUI involving some kind of illegal drug (also referred to as a controlled dangerous substance, or CDS), many other drug DUI charges are based on impairment due to doctor-prescribed medications. The legal aspect of the actual substances may be starkly different — and a possible further complication to one’s DUI arrest — but in the eyes of the law, impaired driving is impaired driving regardless of the type of substance causing the impairment.

Since driving under the influence is more commonly linked to alcohol consumption, it may be instructive to remind the driving public that, just like too much alcohol, taking certain medications — prescription or over-the-counter — may interfere with a motorist’s ability to operate his car, truck or motorcycle. As many doctors will point out, every patient who is taking one or more kinds of doctor-prescribed drugs should be aware of the potential side effects of those meds, either alone or in combination.

While many drugs do not have a significant effect on most individuals’ driving capability, there are numerous medications that can cause cognitive impairment and/or drowsiness. People under a doctor’s care and taking medications provided by their physician must always remember how long the serious effects of any drug may last. Depending on the particular circumstances of a traffic stop, a state trooper or local cop may not be terribly sympathetic that an individual simply forgot about the side effects of this or that medication.

Taking precautions not to drive while the serious side effects of any particular medication are at their peak may help motorists avoid an unnecessary and possibly costly drug DUI summons. Even if a driver claimed that he waited the necessary time period before driving, the court may not be that lenient when passing sentence.

Medications that could possibly interfere with a person’s Judgment or cause drowsiness should be treated with caution. Sedating agents in particular can make driving a dangerous activity. Even certain medical procedures can leave an individual less than capable behind the wheel. The effects of anesthesia are quite obviously a danger, but other types of medical procedures can also result in impairment.

Take dilating agents, for instance, which are used by ophthalmologists. People who have their pupils dilated by an eye doctor may often need to have a friend or relative drive them home from the doctor’s office, especially if they don’t have sunglasses. According to experts, the effects of a standard dilating drop last about three hours. If a motorist who is rather light-sensitive to start with attempts to drive while the effects of those drops are still around, his or her ability to see well could be adversely affected.

Bottom line: When in doubt, do not drive. Not only could your decision cost you in financial terms, but the potential danger of inadvertently driving while impaired by drugs could result in a traffic accident. There is no advantage to pressing one’s luck just to save a little time in the short run. Use your common sense. However, if you have been arrested and charged with drug DUI, it is best to contact a qualified DWI-DUI defense lawyer to learn about your rights under the law, and your possible options ahead of a court hearing.