Las Vegas DUI laws do not just pertain to drunk driving or driving under the influence of illicit drugs. You can also be charged with DUI in Nevada for operating a car after having taken legal sleep medications such as Ambien and Lunesta … it does not even matter if you have a prescription!
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain what you need to know about Nevada Ambien DUI laws.
DUI with Ambien in Nevada (NRS 484C.110)
Nevada law makes it a crime to drive under the influence of not just alcohol but also drugs. And it is irrelevant whether those drugs are legal and even whether you have a valid prescription for them. Many people who drive with sleep-aids such as Ambien in their system unwittingly find themselves booked on Las Vegas DUI drug charges.
“Sleep Driving” in Nevada DUI Ambien cases
The FDA defines “sleep-driving” as “driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic product, with no memory of the event.” The most well-known sedative-hypnotic medicines which can bring about this condition in Nevada are Ambien and Lunesta.
Unfortunately, people who take Ambien in Las Vegas may be prone to sleepwalk to their car and start driving. Even though sleep-driving is involuntary and unconscious, it is still illegal and invites Nevada DUI Ambien arrests. Attorneys in these cases can assert what has become known as the Ambien defense.
Nevada DUI Ambien as an “involuntary” act
Back in 2007, the FDA mandated that companies that manufacture Ambien put warning labels about “sleep-driving” on the bottle and in the product medication guide. This action demonstrates that the FDA itself recognizes sleep-driving as involuntary, and this is evidenced by the fact that many people who are arrested for sleep-driving are often in a state of undress and unconscious.
That Ambien sleep-driving is an involuntary act could arguably be used as a legal defense under Nevada drugged driving law, which penalizes the voluntary act of driving under the influence. And even if this defense is not enough to get an Ambien DUI charge dismissed completely, it could sway the prosecutor to lower the charges or agree to much lesser penalties.
Voluntary acts may negate a sleep-driving defense
If someone is arrested for driving under the influence of Ambien in Nevada, fighting the charges becomes more difficult if he/she allegedly did any of the following:
- ingested Ambien with alcohol or other drugs,
- ingested more Ambien than the recommended dosage,
- began driving after he/she has taken Ambien (not expecting it to take effect until after he/she has stopped driving), or
- began driving after waking up from an Ambien-induced sleep (when he/she is still drowsy and under the influence of the drug-“next day effect”)
Therefore, if you are a prescription Ambien or Lunesta user or take any other sleep aids in Las Vegas, just take care to follow the directions and to avoid driving unless you are totally alert. One way to avoid sleep-driving is to hide your keys in an unusual location before you go to sleep.
Note that it is also a form of DUI in Nevada to sleep in a parked car while under the influence of Ambien if the keys are in the ignition of the car. Learn more about Nevada Sleeping DUI Laws. And for general information on the Nevada crime of DUI of prescription drugs, see our article on the Nevada crime of DUI of prescription drugs.
Penalties (NRS 484C.400)
Violating Las Vegas Ambien DUI laws is usually charged as a misdemeanor. But if it is your third Nevada DUI offense in seven years or if it caused a serious accident resulting in someone’s death or serious injury, felony charges will be brought instead.
The standard sentence for a first-time Nevada DUI Ambien conviction includes the following:
- 2 days to 6 months in jail or 24 hours to 96 hours of community service in Nevada
- Nevada DUI School
- fines of $400 to $1,000 plus court costs
- Nevada Victim Impact Panel
- 185-day driver’s license suspension
- ignition interlock device installation
Punishments obviously increase for each successive conviction, and felony DUIs carry several years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. For more information on Nevada DUI with drug laws and Nevada DUI penalties, click on the following links:
Prosecutors may sometimes agree to reduce a Nevada DUI with Ambien charge to a Nevada Reckless Driving charge. Nevada Reckless Driving is a lot less serious than drugged driving, and it can be sealed from your criminal records after only one year as opposed to the seven-year waiting period that misdemeanor DUI convictions require.
Call us if you have been charged with DUI Drugs . . .
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of Ambien in Nevada, call our Las Vegas DUI defense attorneys for a free phone meeting. We might be able to have your charges dismissed or lessened to something less serious. And if you are not a citizen, we will also do everything possible to protect your resident status as well.
Read more in our article about DUI with meth in California.
To learn about California “DUI with Ambien” law, go to our informational article on California “DUI with Ambien” law.