Ambien and DUI

There have been a number of reported cases of people being involved in auto accidents and being arrested for DUI based on impairment through the sleep medication Ambien.

There is also concern about people sleep walking and sleep driving after taking Ambien.

I have a DUI case in Orange County that has just been filed in Harbor Justice Center, where my client was seen by a citizen displaying symptoms of confusion and possible impairment. She was with her young children at the time and the citizen was concerned about the safety of the kids. He warned her not to drive and called the police when she did. The case is based on impairment through ambien that she had taken the previous night. According to the manufacturers, ambien can result in symptoms of grogginess, confusion and continued tiredness the following morning. My client has also been charged with child endangerment significantly raising the stakes for her.

I also had a case recently where a truck driver parked his truck for the night and took some ambien with beer to go to sleep. He then woke up following a collision into parked cars. He does not remember driving at all. His blood alcohol level was .06 and the DA did not file the case. Fortunately, the crime lab did not test the blood sample for ambien.

It is arguably a defense that a person driving while sleeping under the influence of ambien is not guilty of DUI because they did not drive voluntarily. This is a developing area of the law that needs clarification. The courts however, have shown an unwillingness to rule in favor of defendants in this area, and it is likely that convictions for DUI based on ambien and other sleep medications would be upheld.


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