Sleepy Man Driving Car

Understanding the “Ambien Defense”

McCready Law Group June 9, 2023

If you are facing DUI charges in California, you need to explore the various defenses that may be available to you. One of the defenses could be the “Ambien defense.” As a DUI defense attorney at McCready Law Group, I can explain what the Ambien defense is and how effective it may be in California DUIs. I represent people facing DUI charges in Long Beach, California, and the surrounding areas, including Lakewood and Cypress Hill.  

What Is the “Ambien Defense”?

The Ambien defense is a legal defense used by individuals who have been charged with DUI, but claim that they took the sleep medication Ambien and unknowingly drove while under its influence. Ambien is a prescription sleep medication that can cause dizziness, confusion, and impaired judgment. Individuals taking Ambien may not be aware that they are not fully alert and may be a risk to themselves and others while driving. 

The Ambien defense is a form of the involuntary intoxication defense. It is based on the argument that taking Ambien caused the driver to be in an intoxicated state, without their knowledge or intention. In theory, the defense can be effective if the defendant can prove that they took Ambien as prescribed, did not realize they were driving, and had no intention of breaking the law. 

The Effectiveness of the Ambien Defense in California DUIs

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, drivers in California can face DUI charges when caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher (for individuals aged 21 and older) or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs that affect the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. 

But what about using the Ambien defense to get your DUI charges dismissed in California? The effectiveness of the Ambien defense in California DUIs is rather questionable after the infamous case of People v. Mathson in 2012. In this case, the defendant admitted to taking prescription Ambien at home and then falling asleep. The defendant argued that he was not criminally liable for DUI because he was “sleep-driving” and not conscious when behind the wheel of his vehicle. 

However, the court refused to accept the defendant’s sleep-driving defense and convicted him of a felony DUI. The court explained that the defendant was “voluntarily intoxicated” because he was aware of the intoxicating effect of the drug and knowingly ingested the drug. Thus, the Ambien defense in California DUIs may not be a viable defense unless you can prove that you were involuntarily intoxicated, did not knowingly ingest the drug, and/or were not aware of the intoxicating effects of the drug.  

How a Strong & Reliable Attorney Can Help

Proving the Ambien defense can be a difficult task without legal help. Here’s how a DUI defense attorney can help you make your case: 

  • Expert witness testimony. In order to prove the Ambien defense in court, you will need medical experts to testify to the effects that the medication had on your driving ability. A DUI defense attorney can connect you with such experts and ensure their testimony is admissible in court. 

  • Forensic analysis. California prosecutors have a number of tools at their disposal to build a case against you. Among these are blood and urine tests. These tests can be the key to proving that the medication impaired your driving ability. A DUI defense attorney can help analyze the results of these tests and whether they support your defense. 

  • Presentation of evidence. Proving the Ambien defense requires a thorough and convincing presentation of evidence. A DUI defense attorney can help you compile your medical records, witness statements, and other supporting evidence in order to build a strong case in your favor. 

  • Negotiation and litigation. Whether your case is ultimately settled through a plea deal or goes to trial, having legal counsel can be invaluable in representing your best interests. 

Even if the Ambien defense is not the most effective strategy in your DUI case, an attorney will be able to advise you on your defense options based on the facts of your case.  

Get Legal Guidance From an Experienced Attorney

If you are facing DUI charges and are considering using the Ambien defense to argue that you were involuntarily intoxicated, you need legal help. As a DUI defense attorney at McCready Law Group, I understand the nuances surrounding the Ambien defense and can help you evaluate the effectiveness of this defense in your unique case. Get in touch today to schedule a confidential consultation and talk about your case. 

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