Interviewer: Of the prescription drugs, which ones are most commonly involved in DUI cases?
Brian: We see a lot of cases where Ambien is a factor and many also with Xanax.
Interviewer: What about oxycodone or hydrocodone?
Brian: Hydrocodone and oxycodone are less common. I think more cases are primarily attributed to Ambien. It is a very common prescription and now many people take Ambien. Ambien is a problematic medication because there have been quite a few reported incidents of people taking Ambien and sleep driving.
Sleep Driving: Ambien Usage Can Make You Unaware of What You Are Doing
I did use that as a defense once or twice. A person has to be aware of what they are doing and if they went to sleep, took their Ambien as prescribed, and the next thing they remember is they are out driving that certainly creates a problem.
A person cannot be punished for what is basically sleep driving. If they are not in their right mind, if they didn’t know they were doing it they cannot be responsible. I’ve had clients and know of clients of other attorneys where the people are literally out in their pajamas.
They do not remember how they were driving; they do not remember how they ended up there. I had a client some years ago that had taken Ambien and drove and crashed a car and walked down the street.
There were witnesses who said, “This person looked completely out of it. I don’t think they were awake. They did not realize what they were doing. They somehow walked to the door, they went inside, they grabbed a drink of water, and they just seemed completely out of it and all of the sudden they just snapped out of it.”
Ambien is a big problem and there are certain medications that the prosecutor ‘s expert witness will testify that any amount in a person’s system is too impairing to be behind the wheel of a vehicle.
What If You Are Charged With a DUI While Under the Influence of a Medication Prescribed to Someone Else?
Interviewer: I guess you’re putting yourself in a lot of danger if you take someone else’s prescription medication and you drive because then being prescribed under law does not protect you?
Brian: Correct. If you are taking someone else’s prescription medication it becomes an illegal drug.
Interviewer: Would that affect the charge because it is now considered an illegal drug?
Brian: Yes. It is on par with cocaine or marijuana. Unless the prescription is prescribed to you and you are taking it as prescribed, it is literally the same thing as taking meth, or cocaine, or marijuana, or any of the other commonly known illegal drugs.
Interviewer: If you take someone’s Vicodin or Percoset, even one pill and you are pulled over and they test your blood, you are in trouble.
Brian: Yes, absolutely.