The trial of Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy, got under way in New York today. Kennedy is accused of Driving Under the Influence of a drug. The drug in question is the sleep aide, Ambien, which she was prescribed. Her defense in the case is that she mistakenly took the pill believing that it was something else, an involuntary intoxication defense.
Kennedy is not the first to be charged with this type of offense. Cases are popping up all over the country where people have taken Ambien and went to bed and woke up at a police station or in a hospital having no memory of ever getting behind the wheel of a car.
In Pennsylvania, “sleep driving” is a growing concern and has led to numerous DUI arrests. “Sleep driving” may or may not be defense to a criminal offense for DUI. There have been a few instances in Pennsylvania where an involuntary intoxication defense has been successful after evidence was presented that the defendant consumed Ambien and involuntarily drove their vehicle but the defense is not one that is widely accepted across the state.
The bottom line is that people need to be aware that when they are legally taking a sleep aide like Ambien or Lunesta, they are potentially putting themselves at risk that they could end up in a situation where they are “sleep driving” and end up with a DUI arrest and conviction.