In May, a driver who had his license suspended as a result of a DUI appealed a decision that revoked his right to drive. Courthouse News reports that the motorist lost his license after a hearing in which he presented uncontroverted evidence that he was in a somnambulistic state (sleep driving) at the time he was arrested for operating his vehicle while impaired.
An attorney with experience in DUI in Alabama knows prosecutors must show that a defendant got behind the wheel after using drugs or alcohol in order to convict for impaired driving. The question is: does a defendant have to make the voluntary choice to get behind the wheel or is he always going to be held responsible for driving under the influence? Ambien sleep driving cases have provided a complex twist to answering this question because sleep driving is a common side effect of this popular and widely-used sleeping medication. Drivers throughout South Side, Titusville, Red Mountain, Woodlawn, Ensley and surrounding areas should consult with an attorney for help in DUI cases involving Ambient or other prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Can a Driver Be Charged with DUI When Driving in his Sleep
Most, if not all, criminal acts require both actus reus (a guilty act) as well as mens rea (a guilty mind). When a driver gets behind the wheel in a somnambulistic state, he is not acting intentionally and has not made a conscious choice to drive while impaired. A somnambulistic state means that a person was acting while asleep and not consciously. It is a well-known side effect of Ambien that people will take actions while they are sleeping and unaware, including getting in the car and driving without knowing what they are doing.
The DUI defendant reported by Courthouse News believes that he should not face the loss of his driver's license for DUI since he was in a sleep state when he got behind the wheel. He tested positive at 11:48 PM with both Ambien and alcohol in his system. The Ambien that was detected on the test was in the proper therapeutic dose. As a result, he claims that the preponderance of the evidence was that he committed no voluntary act of drinking and driving and that he thus should get to keep his license.
The driver had lost his license as part of an automatic administrative suspension. The hearing officer who presided over the hearing to determine whether the motorist's license should be revoked found that DUI does not require a voluntary act. It is not clear whether this is accurate, because the motorist is appealing the decision and claims that the hearing officer's assessment of the law was wrong.
The courts will need to interpret whether the motorist should lose his license even without a voluntary act and the decision will be based on state DUI law. In this case, the driver was in Colorado. Other states may answer the question differently.
In one Alabama case, for example, a woman who had Ambien in her system while driving through a red light was not charged even though that driver caused a death. Fox 10 TV reported on the reasons why the charges were dropped. That case, however, was unique because the driver was not just on Ambien but also was suffering from dementia and was not competent to stand trial.
Defendants who are accused of driving drunk should consider what types of defenses may make sense in their particular case, and whether Ambien was involved and may have contributed to their actions. Attorney John Michael Barclay will help defendants to explore their legal options for responding to DUI charges.
Contact Barclay Law at 866-584-1023 or visit www.jmbarclaylaw.com to schedule a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in Birmingham. Serving South Side, Titusville, Red Mountain, Woodlawn, Ensley and surrounding areas.