Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, Including Cocaine, Heroin, Meth, and Other Substances in New Jersey

A police officer holds the breath test machine for a suspect to blow into with a police car in the background.

Under New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. 39:4–50(a), you cannot drive a motor vehicle if you are “under the influence… of a narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug.” New Jersey courts have since expanded this law to include any substance that has produced a narcotic effect – and the law does not even require that the specific drug be identified. If you have used a substance that would change your normal physical coordination or mental abilities to the point that you can be considered a danger to yourself or others on the road, then you may be charged with driving under the influence of drugs, also known as DUID.

If you go to trial for a DUI/DWI charge, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were operating a vehicle under the influence of some drug or mind altering substance. When it comes to alcohol, the standard breathalyzer test and field sobriety tests used to demonstrate that a person was driving drunk are well known. When it comes to DUID for drugs like cocaine, however, a case can be somewhat more complicated. The State may require expert testimony to establish that there were drugs in your system and that these drugs actually made you unable to safely operate your vehicle. For that reason, it is especially important to consult an experienced DWI/DUI lawyer, who will be able to identify if the State’s investigation into your charges was proper and who may be able to have your charges either dismissed or downgraded by discrediting this evidence.

How Does the State Prove Narcotic Use?

In a prosecution for driving while under the influence of drugs, the State will use observations and testimony to establish that a person was using drugs at the time he or she was arrested, as well as to show that the person was intoxicated. For instance, if a police officer suspects a driver of being under the influence of narcotics, the first thing he or she will probably do is request that the driver undergo a blood or urine test. This evidence would then be admitted at trial through admission of the person who performed the analysis or an independent reviewer. Barring exigent circumstances, New Jersey law does not require that a driver undergo a blood or urine test. The driver does have the right to refuse to participate in testing. To obtain a blood or urine sample, the police MUST either (1) gain the drivers voluntary informed consent (meaning the driver has the right to refuse) or (2) the police obtain a search warrant to force a driver to give blood or urine for testing (if a warrant is issued, you must comply).

The State will also need to present evidence that the driver showed signs of intoxication. This is because a defendant can argue that any traces of narcotics in his blood or urine were left over from some other time and did not impair his or her ability to drive. Such evidence can be observed from speaking to a driver and by asking a driver to perform a field sobriety test – things like walking in a straight line, standing on one foot, or using your eyes to follow a light. Again, the State may need to present this evidence through an expert, such as a police officer with sufficient training to identify narcotic influence. In the recent case of State v. Beyer, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the DUID laws and procedures, when it held that a driver could be convicted of driving under the influence of cocaine based on the fact that the driver was found asleep at the wheel of a car with its engine running, the driver admitted to using cocaine earlier, urinalysis showed the presence of cocaine, and the driver showed signs of falling, swaying, and staggering during the field sobriety test.

Because defending against charges of driving under the influence of drugs can be very complicated, it is important to get an experienced DUI/DWI attorney in any situation where you or someone you know is charged. An experienced DWI/DUI attorney will be able to help present the best defense possible or have the charges against you dropped completely.

New Jersey DUID Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can help if You Are Charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, Including Molly, Ecstasy, Marijuana, or Other Illegal Substances

A DUI/DWI charge for operating a motor vehicle will involve many complicated evidential issues. Such a charge can also result in severe penalties that affect you and your loved ones. If you are charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of any substance in New Jersey, an experienced DWI/DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the State of New Jersey.