“Under the influence” of alcohol seems fairly easy to define and understand. However, legal interpretation is often very different than a conversational understanding of a word or phrase. This legal term has been interpreted many times by the courts in New Jersey. In State v. Tamburro 68 N.J. 414 (1975), the New Jersey Supreme Court defined “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol as “The language ‘under the influence’ used in the statute has been interpreted many times. Generally speaking, it means a substantial deterioration or dimunition of the mental faculties or physical capabilities of a person whether it be due to intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit producing drugs.” In State v. Johnson 42 N.J. 146 (1964), the Court stated that it was the intention of the Legislature under NJSA 39:4-50(a) (the drinking and driving statute) in forbidding the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol “to prescribe a general condition, short of intoxication, as a result of which every motor vehicle operator has to be said to be so affected in judgment or control as to make it improper to drive on the highways.” Moreover, the New Jersey DWI statute “penalizes a person who drives ‘while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.’ Although prosecutions pursuant to its provisions are commonly and colloquially termed ‘drunken driving cases’, it is settled that the statute does not require as a prerequisite to conviction that the accused be 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.” State v. Emery, 27 N.J. 348 (1958). Finally, in State v. Rodgers 91 N.J.L. 212, the court discussed under the influence by holding: “The expression ‘under the influence of intoxicating liquor, covers not only all the well known and easily recognizable conditions and degrees of intoxication, but any abnormal mental or physical condition which is the result of indulging in any degree in intoxicating liquors, and which tends to deprive that person of that clearness of intellect and control of himself which he would otherwise possess.”
As you can see, there is considerable direction regarding the definition of “under the influence”when conducting DWI prosecutions in New Jersey.