Are you facing DUI charges anywhere in Pennsylvania? Were you alcohol free but sleep driving on Ambien? If so, our Pennsylvania Ambien DUI lawyers can help you.
Please contact our team of Pennsylvania Ambien DUI lawyers immediately. After a DUI arrest time is of the essence and our attorneys will get to work on your defense right away. Our attorneys serve the entire state of Pennsylvania including Allentown, Chester, Erie, York, Shippensburg, Reading, Scranton, Blue Bell, New Hope, Doylestown and Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania Ambien DUI Laws
While it may be difficult to fathom but in many Ambien DUI cases the accused remembers taking their nightly Ambien dose, laying down to sleep only to wake up behind bars, charged with driving under the influence (DUI). And if that’s not a nightmare enough, imagine not remembering getting behind the wheel of a car in the first place.
It seems far-fetched, but it’s not. In fact, sleep driving is just one of about a half-dozen parasomnias, or sleep-arousal disorders, associated with the drug Zolpidem, better known as Ambien.
The most prescribed hypnotic sedative over the past decade, Ambien is used to treat short-term insomnia. Although the drug has been available on the US market since 1993, it has gained a lot of attention since 2005, when reports of parasomnias began to surface. Users of Ambien reported incidents of uncontrolled sleep walking, cooking while sleeping, and evensleep driving. In instances where users were arrested and charged with DUI, arresting officers consistently reported that people exhibited similar symptoms, including slowed or slurred speech, disorientation, poor coordination, and blacking out. In nearly all of these cases, those who committed the acts don’t remember doing anything.
But how is that possible? How can people who have gone to sleep after taking Ambien resort to such strange behaviors and then have no memory of the event? There is no firm answer, but one explanation is that the person was roused from sleep, committed the acts, and then fell back into a deep, almost coma-like, sleep.
Ambien DUI Case Statistics
In response to these claims, the manufacturer of Ambien, Sanofi-Aventis, initially noted that four percent of the population suffered from parasomnias. However, they argued that although incidents of sleepwalking occurred during treatment with Ambien, the instances couldn’t be systematically linked to the drug.
In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration demanded that the makers of 13 sedative hypnotic drugs, including Ambien, include warnings about possible unusual behavior, including sleep driving. They also recommended that manufacturers conduct clinical studies to see how frequently sleep driving and other parasomnias occurred with each product. The FDA also notified health care providers that they should warn patients about the possibility of sleep driving and other parasomnias.
Needless to say, that set the stage for a deluge of legal claims. Chief among the arguments:the Ambien made me do it. But does that defense work, or is it an empty claim? There is no short answer; courts across the country have taken a number of different approaches to the Ambien sleep driving defense. In this article, we’ll examine three of the most common arguments.
Involuntary Intoxication Defense
Here, the defendant must show that at the time of the accused crime he or she was in an altered state of mind and was unaware of their actions. The defendant must also show that an intoxicating substance caused the behavior and that they did not knowingly consume the substance. Someone whose beverage was spiked with a drug would be a candidate for this defense. But while alcohol and illegal drugs cannot generally be used as part of an involuntary intoxication defense, prescription medications can be considered, if the defendant can show that he was not aware of the potentially adverse effect at the time he took the medication.
This defense basically says that the defendant could not have foreseen the consequences of taking Ambien. It is harder to utilize this defense, given the physicians’ warnings to patients and the labels on prescription bottles which were mandated earlier by the FDA. In some cases, the courts will consider what a reasonable person would have done in similar circumstances or consider the probability – as opposed to foreseeability – that a person would drive while under the influence of Ambien.
This is a requirement for any criminal offense. It means that the State must prove that the Defendant engaged in a voluntary or volitional act. So, in cases of DUI-Ambien, the argument is that the driver was asleep and did not knowingly get behind the wheel while under the influence of a substance, because an act performed while asleep or unconscious is not a volitional act.
Defense In PA Ambien DUI Cases
Ultimately, that is the decision of the finder of fact – the judge or jury trying the case. Blood samples and toxicology data can verify the amount of the drug in a Defendant’s blood as well as any other medications the person was taking.
Scientific research does suggest that four percent of people who take the drug can potentially experience some parasomnias. Still, if you’re charged with Ambien induced DUI in Pennsylvania, you can and should expect push-back and skepticism from the bench and prosecutors. Your best hope is a skilled, proven DUI attorney who will conduct thorough research of legal precedents in your state and from around the country and put together a rock-solid defense that will result in your charges being dismissed or (more likely) a not guilty verdict from a jury.
Contact A Pennsylvania Ambien DUI Attorney
If you have been charged with DUI after ingesting Ambien, Lunesta or the generic Zolpidem, do not take your situation lightly. Contact our team of Pennsylvania Ambien DUI attorneys today. for a free consultation.