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DUI with Ambien? What You Need to Know

Posted by Terry A. Wapner | Dec 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

California Vehicle Code section 23152 (a) prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.  This law not only applies to illegal drugs, but also to prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs. Most of the time, when we take our prescriptions according to the doctor's advice and dosage, people are going to be fine.  Unfortunately, there is a category of drugs that may cause a DUI without you even knowing it.

Ambien (zolpidem), the most used "sleep-hypnotic", is one such drug. There have been numerous reports of sleep walking, sleep eating, sleep sex, and, yes, even sleep driving.  In fact, several years ago, the FDA required the makers of these sleep-hypnotics to place a warning of these side effects in the literature that comes with the prescription.

Sleep Driving is defined as "driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic product, with no memory of the event". Ambien, as well as Lunestra, Sonata, and Rozerem are sedative-hypnotics that can cause sleep driving.

Usually, someone takes the Ambien before going to bed and literally wakes up in jail.  Reports then tell them that they were driving their cars erratically, possible got into an accident, had conversations with police officers, and even performed field sobriety tests. That person usually has no memory of these events whatsoever. In fact, they usually report that they took the Ambien and the next thing they remember, they're in jail.

In California, as well as other states, you have to be conscious to commit a crime. Legal and Medical experts define the sleep driving event described earlier as an "unconscious" event.  The medical definition and legal definition of unconsciousness are different and you will need a DUI Lawyer with experience in these type of cases to distinguish these two.

If you find yourself being arrested for DUI after you took a sleep hypnotic like Ambien, you must consult with an attorney who has specific experience with these types of cases.  I am one of those attorneys. Please call my office for a consultation.  You may not be guilty of DUI!

About the Author

Terry A. Wapner

Terry A. Wapner confines his practice to the defense of persons accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and related crimes.


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