N.J. court says hangovers impair drivers

/ Source: The Associated Press

Motorists who drive while suffering a hangover from drug use can be considered impaired even if the drug's immediate effects have passed, a state appeals court ruled.

The 3-0 ruling by the Appellate Division of state Superior Court considered a case involving cocaine use, and a prosecutor expressed doubt it would apply to alcohol hangovers.

"This case presents a novel issue as to whether a 'rebound effect' or a 'hangover effect' from a previous ingestion of cocaine constitutes being 'under the influence' of a narcotic drug," the court wrote. "We hold that it does."

The decision announced Thursday involved David L. Franchetta Jr., who was arrested two years ago after police observed him speeding and driving erratically. A blood test found evidence his body was metabolizing cocaine, and police said he was lethargic and incoherent because of the after-effects of cocaine use.

Franchetta was found guilty of driving under the influence of cocaine, his license was suspended for two years and he was ordered to serve 30 days of community service.

It wasn't immediately known if the ruling would be appealed. A call to attorney John Tumelty, representing Franchetta, was not returned Friday.

The appeals court affirmed a lower court's ruling that Franchetta was driving while under the influence due to the continuing effect of the cocaine use.

"While defendant was not 'high', he was physically impaired as a result of ingesting cocaine," Appellate Division Judge Thomas Lyons wrote.

The decision specifically addressed cocaine, and Cape May County Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor said he did not think alcohol hangovers would necessarily be considered an impairment.

"I believe it's precedent-setting in regard to the use and effects of cocaine," Taylor said. "I don't read the decision as being that broad in terms of applying to an alcohol hangover."