Driving while intoxicated is a serious offense that can have significant legal and personal repercussions. In New Jersey, not only is alcohol impairment considered a DWI offense, but driving impaired from medication use, both prescription and over the counter, can also result in arrest.
It is important to understand the consequences of medication DWI to avoid potential conviction.
What constitutes a DWI
According to the New Jersey legislature, drivers can face arrest for a DWI if they operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of substances that impair their ability to drive safely. If there is an involvement of alcohol, a blood alcohol concentration of .08 is generally a DWI. However, one can receive a DWI even if the BAC is lower, but there is driver impairment.
Other substances that may affect a driver’s coordination, reaction time and judgment include controlled substances as well as prescription medications, like painkillers or sedatives, and over-the-counter drugs, such as antihistamines or cough syrups.
Legal consequences of a DWI conviction
In New Jersey, the penalties for medication DWI are the same as those for alcohol DWI. The State of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety states that for a first offense, penalties include:
- Fine of up to $400
- Jail time of up to 30 days
- License loss until the installment of an ignition interlock device
- Two days participation in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
- Additional $1,000/year for automobile insurance for three years
Subsequent convictions result in more severe penalties.
Prevention and responsibility
The best way to avoid medication DWI is to carefully read the label of all medications, as it will indicate if the drug can interfere with driving ability. If you are taking medications that may cause impairment, consult your doctor about lowering the dose, switching to a different medication or changing the time that you take it. If you continue to take the medication, avoid driving and find alternate transportation.