Recently, a DUI case involving impairment caused by sleeping pills made headlines because the case happened to involve a Kennedy. The case is an important illustration of what can happen when prosecutors charge people with a crime without using common sense.
Kerry Kennedy was charged with driving while impaired after she was involved in an accident while under the influence of zolpidem, a powerful sleeping pill best known as Ambien in the United States. Driving while impaired by any drug is illegal, but Kennedy was acquitted of the criminal charges.
The acquittal came because Kennedy showed she had taken the pill by mistake and was unaware of the fact that she was driving impaired. Criminal drunk driving laws are intended to punish people who intentionally drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and should not be used to prosecute innocent people who made an unfortunate and unintentional error. As was made clear in this case , however, zero tolerance laws have resulted in prosecutors using a heavy hand in handling these cases.
A DUI defense attorney in Birmingham can help people accused of driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
DUI Defense - Taking the Wrong Drug
Kerry Kennedy indicated at trial that she had accidentally taken a sleeping pill when she was attempting to take her thyroid medication, which was a similar size, shape and color and which was kept in a similar bottle. She had no trouble getting into the car but remembers nothing between the time she entered the highway and the time that a police officer knocked on her window after she sideswiped another vehicle.
The jury deliberated for an hour and ten minutes after the four-day trial before finding her not guilty. This case was not the first example of a situation where someone has driven under the influence of a sleeping pill unintentionally and been found innocent of DUI charges.
The fact is that medication errors are made frequently, and not just by individuals. The Food and Drug Administration has received nearly 30,000 reports of medication errors since 1992 and not all mistakes are reported so there have likely been more. Doctors can administer or prescribe the wrong dose of a drug; the pharmacy or a doctor could administer or provide the wrong medication by mistake; or a patient could take a drug in error.
However, none of these are situations where a motorist is criminally liable. Prosecutors have the burden of proving impaired driving charges beyond a reasonable doubt. As proven in this recent case, when a medication error is made by an innocent and unsuspecting patient, that person should not be punished for their mistake.
Contact Barclay Law at 866-584-1023 or visit https://www.jmbarclaylaw.com to schedule a consultation with a DUI defense attorney in Birmingham. Serving South Side, Titusville, Red Mountain, Woodlawn, Ensley and surrounding areas.