Under the Influence: What Does it Mean?
Posted by Scott Gorman - April 20, 2017

Drugs and alcohol have a mind-altering effect on a user, making it more difficult to process scenarios, make decisions and react to circumstances as they are happening in real time. For this reason, it’s against the law to get drunk or be adversely affected by drugs before you get behind the wheel. Your reaction times are slower, your ability to make quick decisions and understand what’s happening is compromised, and as a driver, you’re a danger to yourself and others on the road with you.

Each year, hundreds of drivers are arrested for operating their vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A DUI/DWI charge is no joke, and fighting against one requires a thorough understanding of what the law means by “under the influence,” and how its definition will affect your case.

The Legal Definition

“Under the influence of alcohol” is a phrase that has been used in DUI/DWI law for several decades. In 1958, the New Jersey Supreme Court used a similar phrase in State v. Emery to convict a man of drunk driving.

The Court justices ruled that “N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 penalizes a person who drives while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. Although prosecutions pursuant to these provisions are commonly…termed ‘drunken driving cases’…the statute does not require as a prerequisite to conviction that the accused by absolutely drunk, in the sense of being sodden with alcohol. It is sufficient if the presumed offender has imbibed to the extent that his physical coordination or mental faculties are deleteriously affected.”

The important clarification in this case is the one made between “drunken driving” and “driving under the influence.” Although the state’s law prohibits driving while absolutely drunk, driving after a few too many beers, with a good buzz going, is considered the same offense. Many drivers believe that they are okay to drive based on their belief that their buzz hasn’t hit them hard enough, they’ve only had a few drinks, or they’re only going a short distance.

In short, they believe that although they’ve been drinking, they’re not drunk. By law, this doesn’t matter. Consuming a few alcoholic beverages and then driving, even if you would classify yourself as being only tipsy, is still against the law and can result in DUI/DWI charges.

However, “under the influence” doesn’t just mean that you’ve had a beer or enjoyed a cocktail on a night out. The law states that intoxication is the offense, and the use of the phrase “under the influence” is intended to straddle the line between being drunk and having just a drink or two. Although alcohol has some effect on the drinker’s brain and motor skills, it’s generally held that one drink is not enough to make a person unfit to drive.

At The Gorman Law Firm, Scott Gorman represents anyone who has been charged with driving drunk or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We will work with you to ensure that your case is handled properly so that you get the opportunity to defend your actions. For more information on driving under the influence, and New Jersey’s DUI/DWI laws, contact an Essex County DWI lawyer at our law firm today.

Published in Categories: DUI / DWI