Ambien and "Sleep Driving": A Defense to DUI?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Apr 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

Fitness guru and Bravo reality star Jackie Warner was arrested last February when her vehicle crashed into a pole in West Hollywood. Shortly after word broke of Warner's arrest, a video surfaced of an unsavory police confrontation that followed the crash. The video shows Warner being escorted to the police car with a towel wrapped around her waist, and later shows an officer pointing a firearm at Warner, shouting at her to remain in the police car. Law enforcement alleges that Warner backed her vehicle into a patrol car at one point, forcing an officer to “jump out of the way.”

Different news outlets have reported variant versions of the incident, stating that Warner merely “clipped” the cop car then left the scene. Fox News reports that Warner's vehicle merely rolled backward making a slight impact with the police car. Upon arrest, officers administered a breathalyzer test which allegedly yielded a .08 result, however, Warner firmly contends that she drank only one martini much earlier in the day. Her bail was set at an outstanding $60,000. She was charged with felony assault on a police officer, misdemeanor DUI, and misdemeanor hit and run.

Now, the assertion that Warner was unconscious at the time of the crash has taken center stage in her defense. According to Warner, she was on prescription Ambien. In a statement, Warner's attorney told the press, "We have letters and reports from Jackie's doctors which prove a long history of insomnia and which strongly support our contention that Jackie was driving unconscious after taking Ambien, which had been prescribed to her.” She also expressed her disappointment at the improper handling of Warner's charges, stating "I reached out to the D.A.'s Office weeks ago and was assured that deputies would review our reports before filing charges. We are extremely disappointed that the D.A.'s Office filed these charges without reviewing our evidence, as promised.” Her attorney intends to refute the alcohol-related charges with these doctor's statements and medical records. Her arraignment is scheduled for April 19th.

Driving under the influence of a prescription drug, even when taking that drug under doctor's orders, can still constitute a DUI. Many prescription medications (including Ambien and generic iterations) warn users of driving or operating machinery while taking the drug. However, many have attempted to argue that under the influence of Ambien, they did not consciously make the decision to assume control of a vehicle. Essentially the argument is that similar to sleep walking, or talking, these individuals engaged in 'sleep driving'.

Most recently, a nun in Philadelphia was charged with DUI and claimed that the Ambien she took for sleep issues caused her to "sleep drive" and subsequently get pulled over for driving under the influence. However, this defense was not successful and she was ultimately convicted of DUI.

If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Georgia, it is of the utmost importance that you contact skilled DUI defense attorney Richard Lawson to review the charges against you. Securing an attorney is the first, vital step in building your defense and fighting these charges. Contact Georgia DUI Attorney Richard Lawson as soon as possible for a free consultation of your case.

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Richard Lawson

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