Potential Penalties Resulting from Drug Related DUI Charges in New Jersey
Interviewer: Let’s talk about some of the penalties that someone could be facing with a drug-related DUI.
James Abate: First, if you’re found with an illegal drug you’re going to be charged with the possession of that illegal drug, which is a criminal offense. The possession of the drug can go from anything from six months in jail for possession of a small amount of marijuana, up to ten years in jail for possession of heroin, or other hallucinogens.
The second thing you’re charged with is operating a motor vehicle while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance. The big penalty there is a two-year loss of your license, and then the third thing is driving while intoxicated or impaired penalties. The first penalty you’re going to face is going to be, on a first offense, is the same as a DUI on a first offense. It’s going to be three months’ loss of license. On a second offense it’s going to be a two-year loss of license. On a third offense it’s going to be a ten-year loss of license.
Due to the Different Manner in Evaluating a DUI with Drugs and an Alcohol based DUI, the Penalties could be Different
One thing that you don’t see too frequently is a combination of a first offense being your driving while intoxicated on alcohol, second offense being with marijuana, and do those both get counted as subsequent offenses, or do they get looked at differently. I think right now the answer is no. DUI is DUI, but I think that is something that, because of the different manner of evaluating them, could be different penalties. Something else that comes into play, we were just talking about the penalties for possession.
I’ve had people who go out to Colorado or to Washington or someplace where the marijuana is legal. They come back to New Jersey with the marijuana still in its packaging that they got legally, and then they get charged with possession of an illegal drug, which, if you’ve got a prescription and the marijuana is still in its packaging, that charge should be dismissed. Because New Jersey gives full faith in credit to the laws of other states, and, again, as long as it’s in its packaging you should not be convicted of possession of an illegal drug in that case.
Changing a Bottle of Prescription Medicine or Combining Prescriptions Can be Considered a Criminal Offense
Sometimes people have legal medication but they’ve taken it out of the bottle that it came in. Let’s say they get three different prescriptions, and just for safekeeping, to keep them all together, they put them in a different bottle or a different package, and they’re found with that different package. At that point, they have committed a criminal offense. If you have prescription medication you must keep it in the packaging you received it in.
Repeat Offense of Drug Related DUI is Very Rare in New Jersey
Interviewer: How often do people usually become second or third-time offenders when it comes to drug DUI?
James Abate: That’s one where I find it to be unusual. It’s less frequent than with alcohol cases, where the second and third offense DUI is very common. With drug cases it’s much less common. I’d say probably maybe one-third of the time we’re dealing with a second or third offender.
Interviewer: It’s pretty interesting to hear that drugs and controlled substances, that, I guess in cases like that you see more people going back to alcohol.
James Abate: I think it’s partly because they are more difficult cases to prosecute.
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