Defending an Ambien DUI

South Carolina’s 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 two situations:

  • 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 and evaluated.

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.

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