DUI law allows for cases to be brought on the basis of alcohol, drugs, or
combination. The only requirement is that a driver be “materially
and appreciably impaired.”
Many police officers throughout South Carolina, including herein Lexington
and Columbia, are receiving specialized training in what is called “drugged
driving.” These are DUI cases based not on alcohol, but on drugs
or prescription medications. This includes Ambien.
We see clients arrested for Ambien based DUI’s in normally one of
- Someone takes Ambien, and prior to going to bed gets in their car and begins driving
- Someone takes Ambien, goes to bed, and then in a process similar to sleep-walking,
unconsciously gets out of bed and begins driving
For purposes of DUI law it does not make any difference if the Ambien was
prescribed and legally obtained, or if it was obtained through some other
method (for example a friend’s prescription or bought off the street).
Although consuming alcohol with Ambien is not required for a DUI arrest
(in fact many times our clients submit a 0.00 breathalyzer test), even
acknowledging consuming a small amount of alcohol can drastically increase
the chances that law enforcement will place someone under arrest.
While Ambien does not affect motor skills like alcohol, it can cause excessive
drowsiness. It also is known to cause “sleep driving”, and
the Food and Drug Administration has provided warnings to physicians and
pharmacists regarding this effect. Ambien, like other insomnia medications,
can also cause effects into the following morning.
If you are like many of our clients before who have received an Ambien
DUI, your first question is what can be done to remove this charge. Although
every DUI case is different, we have developed a system that protects
our clients, and ensures that every defense opportunity can be considered
For an Ambien based charge, that system would include:
- Notifying the Court that we are fully contesting the charge and are not
agreeing for you to enter a plea of guilty to the DUI charge;
- Filing discovery motions to request copies of the police evidence in your
case, this includes any roadside video, police reports, breathalyzer results,
and any other reports photographs, or statements;
- Obtaining copies of any relevant prescription or medical records to document
the prescription as well as the doctor’s opinions on what a therapeutic
level would be.
Once we file the initial paperwork that notifies the Court we are contesting
the charge it will cancel the initial court appearance. This will give
us the time we need to obtain all of the information, including your medical
or prescription records, to determine what the best defense strategy is
for you. This may include obtaining services of an expert witness who
can testify regarding “sleep driving” or any other special
issue in your case.
Many times we have found that it may be possible to negotiate a dismissal
or a reduction in a DUI charge once we establish that our client was taking
medication as prescribed. Although this isn’t necessarily the law,
many prosecutors are sympathetic to individuals who were trying to do
the right thing. Of course, any result we have obtained for other clients
in other matters does not indicate that similar results can be obtained
for other clients today. If however it is not possible to obtain a dismissal,
or a favorable reduction our client believes is in their best interest
then we can fully challenge the case in court.
If you're facing DUI charges,
contact our office today for a Free Case Evaluation.