Note of Advisement
An arrest for driving under the influence of Ambien can have wide ranging effects on your life. While this article provides overview information on DUI Ambien, there is no substitute for consulting with qualified legal representation. If you or a relative has been arrested for Ambien DUI, you contact an experienced attorney who has handled such cases in your county of arrest.
DUI Ambien Overview
When someone thinks of driving under the influence (DUI), images of alcohol, breathalysers, checkpoints and open containers come to mind. Even though alcohol is the most common cause of DUI, most states take a broader view of what it means to be under the influence. Increasingly, people are be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, both illegal and prescription. The insomnia treatment drug Ambien (Zolpidem) has increasingly lead to more DUI arrests.
How Do Police Detect Ambien for a DUI Charge?
Police officers use field sobriety tests (known as SFSTs) to determine whether driving impairment might exist. These are the tests where police officers ask the driver to walk a straight line or tilt their head back and touch their nose. If field administered breathalyser shows no signs of alcohol but the driver fails the field sobriety test, then police officers might beleive the driver is under the influence of another substance. From there, the driver’s blood can be tested for the presence of other substances. Most states penalize drivers with a one-year license suspension for refusing the blood test. The drug screening, typically administered by a hospital, can detect the presence of Ambien and other drugs.
DUI Ambien and “Sleep Driving”
The FDA ordered drug companies to place warnings on the bottle and instructions of the possibility of the sleep driving effect. Sleep driving is similar to the act of sleep walking where the person may take common actions out of habit in an induced type of hypnotic state. Ambien itself is classified by the FDA as a sedative-hypnotic product and falls under the FDA’s definition of sleep driving. The warning on the bottle is important because it demonstrates the FDA recognizes sleep driving as an involuntary side effect of the medication.
Using the “Involuntary Act” Defense for Ambien DUI
Court cases in several states are considering an “involuntary act” defense for DUI Ambien. The reasoning goes, that in order to be guilty of a DUI, a person’s actions must have been under their control. If they are determined to be involuntary, meaning you didn’t know what they were doing, then the defendant should go free. However, this type of defense is not a catch-all excuse to defend all DUI charges. Typically, the driver must have taken Ambien as prescribed by the doctor. Exceeding the normal dose, combining with other drugs or alcohol and using the medication prior to any other activity than sleeping can negate the “involuntary act” defense. The success of this type of defense remains to be seen. To see whether it might be applicable in a particular case, one should consult an experienced attorney in their local area.
How Serious is an Ambien DUI Charge, and is it Necessary to Hire an Attorney?
Any DUI charge is a serious offense and can result in the loss of driving privileges with jail time for repeat offenses. The jail time varies from state to state. However, the charge can affect job opportunities and carry a very heavy stigma. Because DUI Ambien is a relatively new offense, it can be very advantageous to hire a defense attorney who may be able to assemble the appropriate defense to lessen the charges or get the case dismissed entirely. It depends on the exact circumstances of the case, so those who have been charged with DUI Ambien should seek legal representation immediately.