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DUI and Ambien

Ambien is a medication prescribed by doctors to help people sleep. The problem with Ambien is that it can continue to affect a persons ability to drive safely even after a full nights sleep. I have represented a number of clients who have taken Ambien in accordance with their prescription, only to be arrested for DUI the following morning.

I was in the Southbay Superior Court in Torrance this morning representing a client charged with DUI based on Ambien. My client works night shifts and takes Ambien to help him sleep during the day. On the day of his arrest, he had taken Ambien upon his return from work in the morning and had slept until the late afternoon. He was then arrested for DUI in the early evening after falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into the car in front of him. Fortunately, no one was injured. My client refused to submit to a blood test as he felt that he had done nothing wrong. At his DMV hearing, he was facing a one-year suspension for refusing to submit to a blood test. However, the DMV hearing officer conceded that the police had failed to properly admonish my client as to his obligations and the suspension was set aside. The prosecuting attorney has offered a “dry” reckless which my client has decided to accept rather than face the costs and risks of a jury trial.

Defending DUI charges based on medication can be just as difficult as defending alcohol-related DUI's. My client in the above case was fortunate to avoid a conviction for DUI given the fact that there was an accident and a refusal enhancement. He was even more fortunate to avoid a one-year license suspension for the refusal.