New Jersey Laws for Driving on Prescription Drugs

Doctor with RX prescription

Is it Illegal to Drive on Prescriptions in NJ?

When most people hear the phrases “driving under the influence” or “driving while impaired,” they think of alcohol. Most New Jersey residents know that they should not drive with a .08 or more blood alcohol concentration. Others know that it’s also illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs, but people commonly associate the term “drugs” with meth, crack, heroincocaine, and other patently illegal (or “Schedule I”) drugs of abuse.

Fewer people know that under New Jersey’s DWI laws, it can also be illegal to drive after taking legal, prescription drugs—and not just “hot-button” prescription opioids like oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and the like. It can even be illegal under New Jersey’s DWI laws to drive after taking drugs as innocuous as Nyquil, Benadryl, or, perhaps most commonly of all, Xanax. In this article, we discuss the risks associated with, and legality of, driving on Xanax in New Jersey.  If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being arrested for driving under the influence of Xanax, call our local Edison DUI defense attorneys for immediate assistance. We can help you successfully fight charges for DUI on all manner of prescription drugs and we do it for clients in Middlesex County, NJ on a regular basis. Consultations are free and confidential, so call (732) 659-9600 today.

How New Jersey’s Drug DUI Law Applies to Prescription Drugs

New Jersey’s DWI law criminalizes “driving while intoxicated.” The law can be found on the books at N.J. Rev Stat § 39:4-50. The DWI statute not only prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle at a .08 or higher blood alcohol concentration—the law that most people know—but also prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of narcotics, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drugs. If taking a drug renders you unable to operate a motor vehicle with the caution and care of a sober person, and you drive while on that drug, you can be found guilty of driving under the influence, also known as driving impaired.

Does Xanax Qualify for a DUI Charge in NJ?

The Physician’s Desk Reference (“PDR”), a leading source on drug classification, notes that Xanax is a prescription (or “Schedule IV”) drug also known as alprazolam. The drug falls into the larger category of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Xanax treats anxiety, and notably for purposes of the law described above, the PDR states that it can cause physical and psychological dependence. In short, Xanax is medically considered to be a habit-producing drug, and New Jersey’s courts categorize it similarly.

Benzodiazepines like Xanax treat depression by, in the simplest possible terms, acting on a person’s central nervous system—benzodiazepines actually fall into a broader category of drugs referred to as Central Nervous System Depressants. Like Xanax, alcohol is a Central Nervous System Depressant, and some of the symptoms of impairment associated with Xanax can mirror the symptoms of someone who’s had too much to drink.

Both alcohol and Xanax can cause sedation and impair your ability to multitask, which an activity like driving requires. Driving requires multitasking, of course, because a person may have to operate the steering wheel, step on the brake, and scan the road in front of them all at the same time. Patients taking Xanax are warned not to drive or operate machinery until they know how Xanax will affect them.

Charged with DUI on Xanax in Edison, NJ

If you drive after taking an amount of Xanax that renders you unable to drive as well as a sober person under like circumstances, you may be charged with a violation of NJS 39:4-50. After being arrested for DUI in Edison, New Brunswick, South Brunswick, Woodbridge, Carteret, or anywhere else in Middlesex County, your next call should be to a knowledgeable attorney. Get the answers you need to begin building your best defense by calling our DUI defense lawyers in Middlesex County, NJ now at (732) 659-9600. We provide free consultations.

Read more about prescription drug charges here.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.