Driving While in Possession of a Prescription Drug

Pills Spilling From Bottle

While many people are aware that it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, some people do not realize that driving under the influence of prescription drugs can also be illegal, especially if the driver does not have a valid prescription for those drugs. Similarly, you can also be charged for merely having a prescription drug that is not yours, either on your person or in the vehicle. That means that if you are pulled over and charged with possession of a controlled substance or medication that belongs on the list of drugs that must be prescribed by a licensed medical professional, and the items in your possession do not belong to you and a doctor did not prescribe it you, then you can face serious consequences, including fines and loss of driving privileges.

Lawfully Possessing a Prescription Drug N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1

New Jersey statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1, states that you cannot you cannot drive a motor vehicle while in possession of any “prescription legend drug” unless you have obtained the substance or drug directly from, or with a valid prescription of, “a duly licensed physician, veterinarian, dentist, or other medical practitioner licensed to write prescriptions.” The drug must also be intended for the treatment or prevention of a disease in a person or animal, unless you have the substance according to a lawful order of the medical practitioner.

The law defines a “prescription legend drug” to mean any drug which, under federal or State law, requires dispensing by prescription or order of a licensed medical practitioner and is required to bear the statement “Rx only” or similar wording. Such drugs are carefully controlled, and usually bear labels that identify the type of drug, the amount of drug, the proper dosage, any instructions for taking the drug, and the name of the person for whom the drug was prescribed. This is different than an over the counter medication, which you can buy at any pharmacy, and does not require a pharmacist or other medical practitioner to sell or dispense.

Penalties for Violating the Prescription Drug Law

If you are caught with a prescription drug that does not belong to you, the consequences are extremely serious, and may make it difficult for you to work or provide for yourself or your loved ones. If you are convicted, you could lose your driving privileges for two (2) years from the date of conviction. Additionally, you can be fined for $50 dollars plus $33 in court costs and a $6 surcharge.

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help if You Are Charged

There are some important requirements established by N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1 that must be proven by the government before you can be convicted of violating the law. An experienced DUI/DWI attorney will be able to identify these distinctions in your case and may be able to have the charges against you dismissed completely.

First, the law only applies to the operator or driver of a motor vehicle, as opposed to some other laws which apply to all occupants of a motor vehicle. Second, the vehicle must be operated on a public roadway (which varies from drunk driving or the open container law that was previously discussed, which apply in other places, too).

Third, the law requires the driver to knowingly possess the controlled substance or prescription drug. Therefore, if the drug is in the trunk of the vehicle, or if it is in the possession of a passenger, then the driver may not know that the medication is in the vehicle.

Finally, an experienced attorney may be able to help get the charges against you dismissed by showing that you are legally in possession of the prescription drugs, or the lawyer may be able to have the charges against you dismissed or merged into another offense in the course of obtaining a plea bargain on your behalf.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Explain Your Rights and Defend You in Court

If you or someone you know is charged for any crime relating to driving while in possession of alcohol or drugs, it is extremely important to contact an experienced DUI/DWI attorney who can explain what consequences you are facing in your specific situation. Such a charge can result in severe penalties that affect you and your loved ones. Having an experienced drunk driving lawyer can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI/DUI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.