Texas DWI Defense Attorney Cautions Drivers Regarding Sleep Medication

A nun from Philadelphia was recently convicted of DWI. In finding her guilty, the court rejected her claim that she had not chosen to get behind the wheel – she was “sleep-driving” because of medication at the time of her accident. The woman is not the first DWI defendant who has claimed that an adverse reaction to a prescription drug caused them to “sleep-drive.” While Ambien is not the only drug that can lead to “sleep-driving”, claiming that a medication caused “sleep-driving” has become known as the Ambien defense. The Ambien defense has been used several times over the past ten years, with varying degrees of success.

During her trial, the nun testified that she had two small glasses of wine at a book fair that she attended earlier in the evening, and that she also took one, five milligram Ambien tablet and consumed one glass of altar wine before bed on the night of her accident. She said that she drinks a glass of wine almost every evening because it helps her sleep. However, she does not take Ambien on a regular basis. Ambien is part of her treatment for chronic arthritis, and she rarely ever takes it. She also testified that she could not remember anything about the car crash that led to her arrest. The nun also stated that she was unaware of the possible serious side effects of taking Ambien, which include doing things like cooking or driving while completely asleep.

Information that was presented by the police during this case indicated that the woman had the smell of alcohol on her breath. She also had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes. She also staggered when she got out of her car and tried to walk. When police asked her to perform field sobriety tests, she took two of the tests and failed them both before declining to participate in a third test. Dashcam video evidence appears to have played a role in the court’s decision. The judge wrote in his decision that the nun did not appear sleepy, or in a zombie like state when she got arrested. In other words, he felt that she did not seem to be under the influence of Ambien. Blood alcohol test results were also available and showed a BAC of twice the legal limit, but that evidence was not used in the case because police did not follow the proper procedure – they did not observe the woman continuously for twenty minutes before having her take the Breathalyzer test.

If you take medication, such as Ambien, to help you sleep, then you may be unaware of the possible serious side effects of taking that drug. Some medications do not mix well with alcohol, so it is also important that you understand whether any medication that you take could be affected by alcohol. While severe adverse reactions to medication are not common, they do sometimes happen. If you believe that your medicine is causing an adverse reaction, get medical help right away. If you get arrested for DWI and you suspect that you had an unusual reaction to medication, contact Texas DWI Defense Attorney Jack Pettit, Attorney at Law, right away, at 214-521-4567.


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