Sleep-aids that contain zolpidem have been helping people get a decent night's rest for a while now, but new information shows that the drug may be harder for some people to handle than others. Is it possible that zolpidem factored into a recent DUI charge you're facing?
There's a known link between drowsy driving and zolpidem.
The Food and Drug Administration recommended as far back as 2013 that women be given ½ dosages of zolpidem in order to reduce the risk of daytime drowsiness. Women's bodies generally take longer to metabolize the drug than men's bodies, and studies have shown that 10%-15% of women still have enough zolpidem in their system to impair driving 8 hours after taking the drug.
A new study has added to the research on the subject and strengthened the warnings. The University of Alabama study concluded that all users of the drug bear an increased likelihood of motor vehicle collisions than nonusers. Patients on zolpidem were 46% more likely to be in a motor vehicle accident over a 5-year span than nonusers. Women bore a 65% higher likelihood and men a 23% higher likelihood. The elderly fared even worse, with those over 80-years-old increasing their chances of having a wreck by an incredible 124%.
Zolpidem is also linked to sleepwalking—and driving.
In addition, there have been cases of people who showed extreme sensitivity to zolpidem. Just as some people may metabolize the drug faster than others and have no ill effects the next morning, there are others who have experienced dangerous, terrifying, and outright bizarre side-effects from the drug because of the unique way that their bodies reacted to the zolpidem. For example, some people have been known to experience somnambulism, or sleepwalking, while on the drug—even if they've never done it before. Some people have even gotten behind the wheel while in that state.
One of the earliest incidents of someone crashing a car while asleep on the drug involved U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, who crashed his car while driving in his sleep after taking Ambien, which contains zolpidem. He was suspected of drunk driving. More recently, a Philadelphia nun was arrested after driving into a building in the night. She'd taken an Ambien with a small glass of wine before bed, unaware that the wine could increase the drug's potency. She claims to have no memory of anything after going to bed until she woke up, fully dressed in her habit, handcuffed, and under arrest for a DUI.
You may have a defense due to involuntary intoxication.
If you were arrested on DUI charges after taking zolpidem because you were driving erratically, had an accident, or can't even remember getting behind the wheel because you were asleep, you may have a defense known as "involuntary intoxication." While the exact rules vary from state to state, you may be able to use this defense if you had no reason to know that the zolpidem could stay in your system and impair your driving long after it was supposed to wear off or if it caused an episode of somnambulism that put you behind the wheel.
Since the drug's label does provide some information about the potential side effects, you'll have to show that you weren't adequately warned. For example, if you're a woman whose doctor prescribed the full dosage instead of the recommended half, you may be able to convince a jury that your trust in your doctor preempted any concerns you had over the drug and made you believe it was safe. Or you may be able to show the jury that you waited twelve hours after taking the drug before driving, believing that was more than enough time to get the drug out of your system. If you've never had an episode of sleepwalking before, you may be able to convince a jury that you had no reason to ever suspect you'd do something like get behind the wheel in your sleep.
For more information, discuss the case with your criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.Share