People who regularly take prescription drugs can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if they are found to be impaired by drugs when pulled over at a traffic stop. In recent years, these incidences have become just as concerning to the public as drunk driving. Legally prescribed narcotic pain medications like oxycontin, or sleeping pills like Ambien can impair drivers, especially when not taken as prescribed.
According to the director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University, prescription opiates are so widely prescribed and used that people think it is not a big deal to drive while using them. This is even worse when combined with alcohol. A study by the American Journal of Public Health reported that the percentage of drivers that had prescription opioids in their system at the time of fatality increased from one percent in 1995 to 7.2 percent in 2015. These numbers are expected to increase. The most prevalent drugs were morphine, oxycodone, and codeine.
According to a study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, close to 12 million people had misused prescription opioids and around two million had an opioid use disorder. As these numbers grow, law enforcement officers and prosecutors are strengthening efforts to target offenders. In the State of New Jersey, penalties for prescription drug DUIs are the same as they are for alcohol and controlled dangerous substance DUIs, like heroin. A first offense results in hefty fines, driver’s license suspension for up to seven months, possible imprisonment, and other charges.
At a traffic stop, police officers will check the driver for signs of drunk driving with slowed reaction times, drowsiness, dizziness, and a lack of focus. However, breathalyzers do not prove prescription drug intoxication, so the cases are more complicated. Toxicology testing for drugs and officer training methods are being developed to address this issue.
Drivers can be charged with a DUI for legally prescribed drugs, but there is no straightforward way to prove impairment. Since breathalyzers are not valid in these situations, other methodologies are normally used to prove a DUI charge. This can include blood and urine tests or using a drug recognition expert (DRE). Timing is of the essence, and the tests would need to be administered quickly. The DRE needs to conduct drug testing once the driver is at the police station. These would gauge the kinds of drugs that were taken, and how much. The test results can be used to determine if the driver was impaired. Without a DRE, a DUI from prescription drugs cannot be verified.
If you have been charged with a prescription drug DUI, your rights may have been violated. If you have been charged with a DUI in New Jersey, contact the experienced Cherry Hill DUI lawyers at Gigliotti Law Group. Call us at 844–742–7591 or contact us online to discuss your case. We are in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and we serve clients from the surrounding areas, including Camden County, Burlington County, Gloucester County, and Mercer County.