DUI of Sleeping Pills in California

Arrested for DUI of Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata or Rozerem? Here's what you need to know:

California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC -- DUI Ambien

California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC prohibits driving under the influence of drugs.  This law not only applies to illegal drugs but to prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well.  DUI Ambien is one way to invite this charge.even if you don't realize that you are, in fact, driving.

DUI Ambien and "Sleep Driving"

"Sleep driving" is defined by the FDA as "driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic product, with no memory of the event". Ambien and other popular sleeping medications like Lunesta, Sonata and Rozerem are sedative-hypnotic products that can cause this condition.

Sleep driving while under the influence of Ambien or Lunesta occurs after you take the medication, go to sleep, unknowingly wake up (and start sleep-walking) and then drive a car.  It's a growing danger, as hundreds of people continue to suffer California DUI Ambien arrests.

Even though sleep driving has become a recognized phenomenon, and akin to sleep-walking, it is nevertheless illegal.  If you use Ambien, Lunesta or any other "sedative-hypnotic" medication and then drive, you face conviction for a California DUI of drugs charge.

FDA Recognizes DUI Ambien may be an "Involuntary" Act

In 2007, the FDA ordered drug companies that manufacture these types of drugs to warn users of the "sleep driving" side effect.  This warning comes in two forms: (1) on a clear label on the bottle, and (2) in a product medication guide that accompanies the prescription.

The fact that the FDA took that action is incredibly significant.  It demonstrates that this condition is involuntary which could arguably act as a defense to a California DUI of drugs charge.  A California DUI criminalizes the voluntary act of driving while under the influence.  It follows that if there's no voluntary act, then there's no criminal culpability.

The fact that sleep driving is involuntary is further corroborated by the evidence that surrounds a typical DUI Ambien arrest...those stopped are often only semi-clothed in sleeping attire, disoriented, and/or oblivious to the DUI investigation.  But.

Certain Voluntary Acts Negate this Defense to a DUI Ambien Charge

Ignoring warnings or otherwise improperly using Ambien or other sedative-hypnotic products will invalidate this defense.  Most of the cases that have been successfully prosecuted involve cases where the defendant

  • Combined Ambien with other drugs and/or alcohol (despite the fact that a "label warning" advised against doing so), and/or
  • Exceeded the recommended dosage.

Similarly, many of those who have been arrested for California DUI Ambien or Lunesta include those who

  • Suffer from the "next day" effect -- a continued drowsiness after waking up from the drug-induced sleep, or
  • Took the drug before they got home, hoping it would "kick in" before bedtime.

Unfortunately, these scenarios subject you to possible conviction for DUI Ambien, as they meet the very definition of a California DUID under California Vehicle Code 23152(a).driving under the influence of a drug.

The bottom line is this -- be very careful when using these extremely potent sleep aids.  If you're taking Ambien, Lunesta, or another prescription or over-the-counter sleep medication, always ensure that you're completely alert before driving.  It is also a good idea to hide your keys before going to bed.

Call us for help

If you or loved one is charged with DUI of sleeping pills and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Arrested in Nevada?

For information on Ambien DUI penalties in Nevada, visit our informational article on Nevada DUI Ambien law.  If you're facing charges for violating Nevada DUI Ambien law, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys are eager to help and should be able to handle your entire case without you having to appear in court at all.  Call them at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free phone consultation.

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