Could Ambien Use Result in a DWI Arrest in New Jersey?

A Hillsborough, New Jersey woman recently won an NJ DWI Municipal Court appeal based upon a “sleep driving” defense.

In September 2006, the NJ woman was arrested and charged with drunk driving (DWI). When arrested, the NJ DWI defendant was taking prescription medications Ambien and Seroquel, a sleep/insomnia medication and an antipsychotic medication respectively.

At the time of the NJ DWI arrest, there was no warning on the package insert for Ambien that patients could be prone to “sleep driving” while taking the medication. Therefore, people who did fall prey to this side-effect would be completely unaware of their actions and the actions’ unintended consequences.

Although an expert witness testified at trial that the DWI defendant had no way of knowing that Ambien (sleeping pill) would cause her to sleep-drive, an NJ Municipal Court judge convicted her of NJ driving while intoxicated (DWI). A creative DWI defense attorney appealed the DWI conviction, arguing that his client was “pathologically intoxicated” when she was arrested.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge, Paul Armstrong, stated that he believed the DWI defendant’s intention was to go to bed, sleep through the night and get up the next morning to go to work.

It is now required by the FDA that all manufacturers of sleeping aids/insomnia medications include a warning that people taking the drug(s) could be disposed to sleep-driving.

I don’t understand what a warning on a medicine bottle will do to prevent a DWI, if the person taking Ambien unconsciously gets up while asleep and drives his or her car. I suspect that we will see this DWI defense again…

What do you think?