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DWAI / Prescription Drugs

Most people immediately associate driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges with being under the influence of alcohol, but an alleged offender can also be arrested if his or her ability is impaired by drugs. While the term drugs is often presumed to mean illegal controlled substance, the truth is that a motorist in the state of New York can face criminal charges if a police officer believes that person was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a prescription drug.

Many legal prescriptions can have powerful side-effects that are comparable to the hallucinatory or other psychological effects of some illegal drugs, but people can find themselves placed under arrest despite simply taking the prescribed dose of a medication in accordance with their doctor’s orders. When the label of a prescription drug does not contain any warnings about the possible dangers of driving, it can be difficult for prosecutors to convict people of driving while ability impaired by a drug (DWAI/Drug).

Lawyer for Prescription Drug DWAI in Nassau County, New York

Were you recently arrested on Long Island for allegedly driving while your ability was impaired by a prescription drug? You should not delay in contacting Law Office of Stephanie Selloni for help in developing a strong legal defense.

Nassau County criminal defense attorney Stephanie Selloni represents clients accused of drugged driving offenses in North Hempstead, Glen Cove, Garden City, Freeport, Massapequa Park, and many surrounding areas on Long Island. She can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case to help you understand your legal options when you call 516-972-1212 today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Overview of DWAI / Prescription Drug Arrests in New York


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Types of Prescription Drugs Involved in Long Island DWAI Drugs Arrests

Section 3306 of the New York State Public Health Law establishes five schedules of controlled substances, and numerous prescription drugs have been added to the schedules in recent years. A few of the most common prescription drugs that are involved in DWAI/Drug arrests include, but are not limited to:

  • Oxycodone (Oxycet, OxyContin, Percocet);
  • Zolpidem (Ambien);
  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta);
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin);
  • Morphine;
  • Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol);
  • Diazepam (Valium);
  • Meperidine (Demerol);
  • Codeine;
  • Hydrocet;
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic, Durogesic);
  • Amphetamine (Adderall, Dyanavel XR, Evekeo);
  • Hydrocodone;
  • Fentanyl Citrate (Actiq);
  • Butorphanol (Stadol);
  • Triazolam (Halcion);
  • Carisoprodol (Soma);
  • Vicodin (Anexsia, Anolor DH5, Bancap HC, Dolacet, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vadunk, Zydone);
  • Lorazepam (Alzapam, Ativan);
  • Hydrocodone/Paracetamol, Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen, or Hydrocodone/APAP (Hycet, Lorcet, Lortab, Maxidone, Norco, Vicodin, Zamicet, Zydone);
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane, Dalmadorm);
  • Temazepam (Normison, Restoril);
  • Methadone (Amidone, Dolophine, Heptadon, Methadose, Physeptone, Symoron);
  • Chloral Hydrate (Aquachloral, Noctec, Novo-Chlorhydrate, Somnos, Somnote);
  • Phenobarbital;
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM);
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium);
  • Methamphetamine (Desoxyn);
  • Chlorpheniramine and Hydrocodone (Tussionex);
  • Secobarbital Sodium (Seconal);
  • Dextropropoxyphene (Darvon);
  • Pethidine (Meperidine);
  • Levorphanol;
  • Clorazepate (Novo-Clopate, Tranxene);
  • Methylphenidate (Aptensio, Attenta, Biphentin, Concerta, Daytrana, Equasym, Medikinet, Metadate, Methylin, Penid, Quillivant, Ritalin, Ritalina, Rilatine, Rubifen, Tranquilyn);
  • Dexmethylphenidate (Attenade, Focalin);
  • Zaleplon (Andante, Sonata, Starnoc);
  • Estazolam (Eurodin, ProSom);
  • Buprenorphine (Buprenex, Butrans, Cizdol, Subutex, Suboxone, Zubsolv);
  • Alfentanil (Alfenta);
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Palladone);
  • Alprazolam (Xanax);
  • Oxazepam (Serax); and
  • Phenobarbitone.

When a police officer suspects that an alleged offender is under the influence of a prescription drug, blood tests may be used but only prove the existence of a controlled substance in a person’s system. The presence of a prescription drug in an alleged offender’s blood does not necessarily constitute impairment.

Authorities will often summon the services of a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), a police officer specially trained to identify alleged offenders who are under the influence of drugs. A DRE will typically perform the following 12-step series of tests:

  • Breath Alcohol Test;
  • Interview of the Arresting Officer;
  • Preliminary Examination and First Pulse;
  • Eye Examinations;
  • Divided Attention Psychophysical Tests;
  • Vital Signs and Second Pulse;
  • Dark Room Examinations;
  • Examination for Muscle Tone;
  • Check for Injection Sites and Third Pulse;
  • Subject’s Statements and Other Observations;
  • Analysis and Opinions of the Evaluator; and
  • Toxicological Examination.

Several issues are evident with how DREs evaluate alleged offenders in these cases. First, the interview of the arresting officer before any tests have been performed usually means that a DRE acts only to confirm the initial observations of that officer. Secondly, despite the use of the term “expert” in the officer’s title, DREs are rarely qualified to accurately differentiate symptoms of alleged controlled substance use from genuine medical conditions.


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DWAI /Prescription Drugs Penalties in Nassau County

A conviction for DWAI/Drug carries the same penalties as a conviction for an alcohol-related DWI. Alleged offenders can be sentenced to:

  • A fine of between $500 and $1,000;
  • Imprisonment of up to one year;
  • Six-month suspension of driver’s license;
  • Driver responsibility assessment fee of $250 a year for three years; and
  • Mandatory surcharge of $395 or $400 (depending on whether the case is handled in a city, town, or village court).

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New York DWAI /Prescription Drugs Resources

New York State Drug Recognition Expert Program — Visit this website to learn more about the New York State Drug Evaluation Classification (DEC) Program. You can find a link to the website for the International Drug Evaluation & Classification Program, which contains information about the 12-step protocol DREs use in identifying alleged offenders who are under the influence of drugs. You can also find a listing of all DRE officers in the state of New York, 10 of which were based in Nassau County as of January 6, 2016.

Drivers on Prescription Drugs Are Hard to Convict — In July 2010, the New York Times published this story that examines some of the difficulties prosecutors face with cases involving people who allegedly drove under the influence of prescription drugs. As this article points out, there are a multitude of issues with these types of cases that are far more complex than alcohol-related DWI arrests. As Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler points out, it is difficult to convict a person of driving while impaired by prescription drugs because “most people on the jury will also likely be taking prescription drugs for some ailment whether it’s Lipitor or allergy pills or whatever it might be, they might think, ‘I don’t want that to become criminal.’”

A Framework for “Driving Under the Influence of Drugs” Policy for the Opioid Using Driver — The Pain Physician Journal published this article examining current driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) policy and presenting suggestions for improvement based on scientific evidence of opioid-induced psychomotor impairment in its July 2012 issue. You can learn more about the effects of certain opioids on psychomotor testing in this article. You can also find a table comparing drugged driving laws by state.


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Law Office of Stephanie Selloni | Nassau County DWAI /Prescription Drugs Lawyer

If you were arrested in Nassau County for allegedly driving while under the influence of a prescription drug, it is in your best interest to seek legal representation as soon as possible. Law Office of Stephanie Selloni defends clients in Mineola, Lynbrook, Oyster Bay, Long Beach, Hempstead, and many other nearby communities on Long Island.

Stephanie Selloni is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Nassau County who fights to protect the rights of every person she represents. You can have her review your case and answer all of your legal questions as soon as you call 516-972-1212 or fill out an online contact form right now to take advantage of a free consultation.


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