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What Constitutes As Drugged Driving in New York?

Everyone already knows that driving while intoxicated by alcohol – DWI – is a crime in New York and every other state. Your judgment, coordination, and ability to drive are impaired when you consume any amount of alcohol. Similar dangers face those who drive under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription medicines, and many over-the-counter medications. Like drunk driving, drugged driving is a growing public health concern because it puts not only the driver at risk but also passengers and others who share the road. However, our Long Island DWI lawyers can help.


As we grow older, many of us must take some kind of prescription drug to stay healthy. However, pharmaceuticals and even some over-the-counter medicines can be just as dangerous as alcohol or illegal drugs if you use them and drive a motor vehicle. No one can drive legally while under the influence of a drug even if that drug is legal, prescribed, and necessary for the person’s health.

Vicodin, Demerol, Ambien, Dolophine, and Oxycontin are particularly likely to decrease someone’s driving ability. These are medications that considerably slow reflexes, thought processes, and reaction times, so driving or operating equipment while using these medicines must always be avoided. Eighteen percent of the drivers who died in traffic crashes in the United States in 2009 tested positive for at least one prescription or illegal drug, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).


Despite these facts, drugged driving laws have lagged behind alcohol legislation because of the difficulty in determining impairment “levels.” For alcohol, detection is relatively simple. The “legal limit” for drivers in every state is a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent.

For other drugs, there is no reliable, agreed-upon limit. In other words, there’s no comparable standard to the 0.08 percent limit established for alcohol. The NHTSA says, “Determining which drugs and dosage levels impair driving related skills is a large undertaking given the number of potentially impairing drugs.”

In the state of New York, a person is guilty DWAI – driving while ability impaired – if he or she operates a motor vehicle while his or her ability to operate such a motor vehicle is impaired by the use of any drug, or if he or she is impaired by the combined influence of drugs or of alcohol and any drug or drugs. Some states have “zero tolerance” drugged driving laws that make it illegal to drive with any amount of drugs in your system. In fact, fifteen states have “per se” laws, which mean that any detectable level of an illegal drug while driving is, by definition, a violation.

Although that may sound like a good standard, it doesn’t take into account the fact that a driver may still have trace elements of a drug in his or her system long after the actual effects of the drug have worn off. For example, the active ingredient in marijuana – tetrahydrocannabinol or “THC” – can remain in the system for weeks, long after any sensation of “being high” has faded. In New York, you must actually be impaired by the drugs you’ve taken to be charged with DWAI.


For the purposes of New York’s DWAI law, you are legally impaired if your ability to operate a vehicle as a “reasonable and prudent” driver has been reduced “to any extent” as the result of using drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. You can even be arrested for DWAI in New York for just getting in your vehicle and cranking it up. The police don’t have to wait for you to move your vehicle before making an arrest.


The state of New York prohibits driving while impaired by any of the drugs or controlled substances that are listed in the New York Public Health Law. The law contains an extensive list of opiates, narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and other substances. A doctor’s prescription will not shield a driver from a DWAI charge in the state of New York, even for medical marijuana.


Generally speaking, the penalties for a first-offense DWAI conviction are the same as those for a first-offense DWI conviction in New York. For drivers convicted of a first DWAI offense, it’s possible to be sentenced to up to a year in jail. The fine ranges from $500 to $1000, and a convicted offender’s driver’s license may be suspended for up to six months. Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are not required for offenders convicted of DWAI.

Although DWAI and driving while intoxicated are separate criminal charges in New York, a DWAI conviction is nevertheless considered a prior offense if the offender is subsequently accused of any crime involving drugs, alcohol, or their combination. For most sentencing purposes, a prior DWAI or DWI conviction stays on your record – and can be counted against you – for up to ten years.


One problem for defendants in New York DWAI cases is that because it’s a low-level charge, there’s no “reduced” charge that prosecutors can offer as part of a plea bargain. That means that most people simply plead guilty to the charge, and that can be a mistake. A defendant generally has nothing to lose by taking a case to trial for which no plea bargain is offered. Because DWAI is a “violation” in New York rather than a felony or a misdemeanor, DWAI trials are held without juries and can usually be concluded in a day.


If you use any over-the-counter or prescription medicine, read the warning labels and directions carefully. If you use any medicine that could impair your ability to drive, then it’s probably better simply not to drive. Do not let your prescription medication cause you to be charged with DWAI. Any driver who is charged with DWAI in New York City or on Long Island will need to retain legal counsel and discuss the case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Always be careful with medications like Ambien, Ativan, Vicodin, and Sudafed. If you’re driving, these medicines can pose just as much danger to you and the innocent people around you as alcohol. You can always learn more about these medicines by speaking with your doctor or by going online, and you can learn more about prescription drugs and DWAI by consulting an experienced Long Island DWI attorney.

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What Are The Most Addictive Drugs?

When we think about drug addicts, we often think about dark alleys and drug dealers selling little packages to people who are out of control and need help. Yes, street drugs are part of the problem. But they are not the entire problem. There are so many people in the United States that are addicted to the drugs that their doctor prescribes them. Worse, with the doors of the pharmacy being shut to the patients who are now addicted to their prescription drugs, they are turning to street drugs, which are cheap and plentiful.

Why Are Some Drugs Addictive While Others Are Not?

Whether you take street drugs or prescription drugs, the effect is the same, according to our drug defense attorneys. Addictive drugs stimulate the part of your brain that makes you feel good. They bring a feeling of contentment and pleasure. Taken in higher doses, they make you high or drowsy. The brain adjusts to the amount of the drug you take, and it demands more and more to get the same feeling. The major problem is, when you cut the supply off, your body will demand it. You will suffer withdrawal. Withdrawal is so bad that the addict fears it. As soon as the body starts signaling you to provide the drug, you get so sick that you would do almost anything to get your drug of choice.

Most Addictive Drugs

  • Opioid drugs
    • Heroin
    • Oxycodone
    • Hydrocodone

This family of drugs includes pain pills such as Lortab and Vicodin. It can also be found in prescription cough syrup.

  • Cocaine and crack cocaine

This drug is usually snorted (sniffed up the nose) or smoked. It is a powerful painkiller and it is an almost immediate high. Often a person will become addicted to this drug after one use.

  • Benzodiazepines
    • Xanax
    • Valium
    • Ativan
    • Klonopin

What May Surprise You

Between Cocaine and Benzodiazepines, there are two other drug sources that are considered in the top 5 most addictive drugs. They are nicotine (tobacco) and alcohol. These are drugs. They are legal for adults to purchase and they are very addictive.

Everyone who takes a pain medication or a medication to calm them during a trying time becomes addictive. Taken as prescribed and for a limited time, they are effective treatments. However, some people find it difficult to take them as prescribed. They crave the drug and the euphoria that comes with the stronger doses.


If a person is taking the drug and it is giving the feeling of being high or very drunk or high, they are taking too much. The feeling they are craving is the feeling of being over-dosed. When people continue to consume more of the drug to get high, they eventually feel like they will exceed the amount their body can process. At that point, they will usually fall asleep and slowly stop breathing.

There are drugs that can reverse the high, and if they get medical attention quickly enough, they can often be saved. Still, without treatment, they will return to the drug, and they will overdose again.


There are treatments and rehab places that will help. But the addict will always have to be on guard. They must accept that these drugs are not an option for them. Unless they get proper help, the addiction will grow. It will destroy them and take everything from them. The last thing the addiction will take is their life.

For more information, speak to a criminal defense lawyer today.

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How To Get Help In New York For Your Drug Addiction

If you have reached a point where you want to kick a drug addiction or help someone you love reclaim their life, congratulations. The journey to get to this point has been difficult and frightening. There are many aspects to getting help.


If a person has come to the realization that they need help, or if you can get them to see the problem before the addiction has taken over their entire life, they may agree to go to treatment. If this happens, you are one of the very few lucky families in this situation. More often than not, they will refuse to accept they have a problem. Some admit they have a problem, but think they can beat it on their own.

If your loved one refuses to seek help, an intervention may be necessary. You may have seen the show on television by that name and it is accurate (though not always as dramatic). An intervention is when the family comes together and designs a recovery for the family unit. This is where you tell the addict how their addiction is hurting them and what is going to be done. Everyone in the family has a part in this process and often the family needs therapy to stop the cycle. This is forcing the addict to hit rock bottom.


Many private rehabilitation centers have a detox center, but some do not. Depending on the drug of choice, they may have to go through detox. This is where they flush the drugs from their body. This is the worst part of recovery. Withdrawal is horrible.

There are cases where a patient must be weaned off of a drug. Xanax, for example, is a drug that can bring on seizures and could kill a person if they have been taking it for a long time and stop it suddenly. Other drugs may be introduced to help the patient get through the detox part of the program. In some cases, a patient will be switched from their drug of choice to a drug like methadone that will prevent them from getting high. However, unless they want to stay on methadone forever, there will come a time when they have to detox. Your doctor and the treatment center will help determine the path of action for you.


There are a few different ways this happens. You can use an inpatient program. This is where you enter the rehab center for 30, 60, or 90-days. There are some long-term facilities for issues that require more time. You get clean and they begin to teach you the tools to stay clean and live a better life. This includes a lot of therapy and education about your addiction. If you go to an outpatient program, you will come to the center for your therapy medication, and for therapy. But you will live outside of the facility.

There are facilities (which are costly) that admit you and sedate you. While under sedation, your detox takes place. When you wake, you are clean and the drug is out of your body. However, you will still need a major amount of help. You did not suffer the discomfort and pain, but you still have the mental process of an addict. Only with therapy can you cure the dependency issue.

The best place to begin in New York is OASAS. For information, contact our drug defense attorneys or click here.

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How Your Drug Addiction Affects Your Family

People become drug addicts in a lot of ways. Drug addiction sneaks up on you and takes control. It doesn’t matter what our social class, status, or background is; addiction is an epidemic. It doesn’t matter how popular or talented you are in life. It doesn’t matter how much you are loved. Everyone that is in your life is affected in some way by your addiction.

How Addiction Begins

When a person becomes addicted to drugs, whether alcohol, legal prescription drugs, or illegal street drugs, they are consumed by the euphoric feeling the drug produces. Eventually, their brain starts craving this sensation and they are forced to find more and more. They become a different person because of their addiction.

No matter how much you love this person, or how much they love you, they will use you, steal from you, lie to you, and take advantage of you. Why? Because the drug is in control. They have no power over the drug or their lives. Addiction becomes a serious problem when the individual starts to harm themselves or others to get their drug of choice. When they are sober, they cannot believe they did those things. Drugs take you to a place of desperation.

The Family Dynamics

The drug addict becomes the focus of the family. Every minute of every day is consumed with worrying about them. You are in a constant battle to “help,” and they are in a continual battle to get the drug they need. You will never meet the demand. You can spend every dime you have and sell everything you own, and tomorrow the addict is back asking for more.

Some members of the family enable the addict by giving them everything they want. They may give it begrudgingly, but the addict doesn’t care, as long as they what they want. They long ago stopped believing the statement, “This is the last time!”

Other members of the family become angry that you allow yourself to be used. They want you to cut them off. Parents often divorce because of this unending battle. The family members who want to force them to their breaking point are fighting the family members who cannot bear the thought of seeing them on the street.

The foundation of the family crumbles as family members take sides. This often makes the enablers hide the resources they are giving to the addict. The entire family wants the same thing, recovery. They simply cannot agree on how to get there. In the meantime, the addict is sucking the resources and life out of the family.


The entire family needs help. Every member of the family must come together to fight this battle. Everyone must deal with their own pain, guilt, anger, and be held accountable for their actions. If the addict does not want to fight with the family, they will agree to rehab. But according to our drug defense attorneys, often, they will not.

Until the family reaches a point where they let the addict suffer the consequences of their actions, nothing will get better. The family will split apart. The choice is clear. Make the family well, and invite the addict to participate. They will choose to comply or not to comply. But you have to stand firm with your convictions if you want recovery for yourself.

For more information, speak to a drug defense attorney today.

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Symptoms Of Drug Addiction

No one wakes up one day and says, “I think I will become a drug addict.” It happens gradually, and it happens in every social class, in every country, and it can happen to you.

It may start innocently. A teenager hurts his shoulder on the football field, or a mother is in a car accident, and they receive pain medication. The injury may require pain management, but soon they feel they need more of the drug and they increase the dosage. Soon they realize, they have become dependent on the drug.

A teenager is pressured to try drugs at a party. He or she doesn’t want to look lame, so they take it to fit in, and it feels good. They just want it now and then to party with their friends. Soon they want the drug more than they want their friends, family, or their own life.

The person who is addicted to drugs does not want to admit it to themselves. They become indignant when you question the amount they are taking. They become angry if you suggest they are developing a problem. Once a person is addicted, it takes a lot to get them back. The sooner you intervene, the better.

What Are the Signs?

  • Behavioral changes
    • They become moody
    • They seem to be dazed and cannot focus
    • They may overreact to things and fly off into a rage
    • They isolate themselves
    • They suddenly stop socializing with their friends or get different friends
    • They suddenly are having financial issues
    • Their priorities change

All these things are evident once we have identified that someone is addicted. But each change, by itself, does not seem to warrant action. The truth is most of the time family members know there is a problem, but like the addict, they are in denial. Our drug defense attorneys see this all the time. No one wants this issue.

  • Physical changes
    • They have bloodshot eyes
    • Their pupils are dilated, and the eyes look glassy
    • They slur their words
    • They may sleep too long or not at all depending on their drug of choice
    • They get angry easily and may become aggressive

You can best see these changes when the “accidental” addict runs out of their medication. The prescription is used up and the doctor will not refill it. This sends the addict into despair. The thought of not having the drug brings terror because it brings withdrawal.


The addict gets nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, and hot flashes. They cannot rest. Their arms and legs are restless. They feel like they must stretch their body parts, but nothing stops them. They shake, cry, get mad, and at that moment, the person you know and love is not in control. The body has taken over, and their core values are buried.


Rehab is the best tool we have to fight addiction, according to our drug defense lawyers. Rehab can work. But, it only works if the addict wants it. They must want it more than they want the drug. If they don’t, they will relapse. Recovery is only possible if the addict wants to get help and change their life.

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