Interpretation of New Jersey DUI Law for Drugs Prompts Hangover of Complaints
By: Mike Stetzer
Did you know that you may now be charged with DUI in New Jersey if caught driving with a hangover?
With that said, the term "hangover" may not necessarily be what you first think.
In a continuing effort to make sure that people are sober when taking the wheel, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey recently extended "driving under the influence" to people with not only active drugs in their system but also those who are experiencing a drug hangover.
In other words, you may now be charged with a New Jersey DUI even if a drug is no longer actively in your system but you are still feeling its aftereffects.
Traditionally, driving under the influence of drugs has been interpreted under New Jersey DUI law as applying to when the substance is pharmacologically active in a person's system. However, the New Jersey DUI law on drugs was clearly expanded in the recent appellate ruling, which was prompted by the following DUI case in the Garden State.
A FoxNews.com story detailed the case of Dennis L Franchetta Jr., a 46-year-old businessman who was pulled over for speeding and crossing the center line. After cops observed Franchetta as having slurred speech and being sluggish and disjointed, they administered various field sobriety tests on the suspect. Franchetta failed the field sobriety tests and was then taken to a local hospital for a blood test.
The blood test did not show that any cocaine was in Franchetta's system but did reveal that he was "still high" from the drug. While cocaine only remains in the system for a few hours after ingestion, the blood test revealed traces of benzolectamine in Franchetta's system. Benzolectamine is a metabolite of cocaine.
The blood test's finding of benzolectamine thus revealed that Franchetta had earlier ingested cocaine. And while the cocaine may have been inactive, it was reasoned that the drug was the "proximate cause of his impaired behavior."
With that in mind, the court found Franchetta guilty of New Jersey DUI. While he was not "high" after the arrest, Franchetta was hung over from the cocaine and thus impaired. As for his DUI penalties, Franchetta had his license suspended for two years and was also sentenced to 30 days of community service.
Franchetta's New Jersey DUI lawyers have since called the new interpretation of the state's DUI law for drugs to be too liberal and have said that they will appeal their client's conviction.
Other critics of the expanded New Jersey DUI law for drugs have argued that this interpretation is too open-ended. In other words, the critics have said that this new view of the New Jersey DUI law for drugs will allow the state to criminalize anything that slightly impairs one's driving and will ultimately hold drivers incessantly liable.
As an example, these critics have wondered whether such an interpretation of New Jersey DUI law would eventually apply to hangovers from alcohol. While an assistant prosecutor said in the story that such action is unlikely, the current interpretation of the New Jersey DUI law for drugs certainly begs the question.