It’s in the news a lot these days. Drivers nodding off behind the wheel, highway accidents blamed on bad drug interactions, motorist who even find themselves “sleep-driving” after taking over-the-counter sleeping medications. As New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, I and my colleagues have seen the cases that run the gamut from simple intoxicated driving arrests to drivers charged with vehicular homicide following multi-car pileups attributed to substance abuse. There is no lack of tragedy on our roadways.
While we may represent individuals who have been accused of DWI-DUI, we in no way espouse drinking and driving, nor taking any drug or prescription meds that one knows will impair his or her operation of a motor vehicle. The facts are clear on this; an impaired driver is simply more prone to being caught up in a traffic mishap than one who is cold-sober or not on any medication.
Yet there are those instances where a motorist may have had no idea that the medicine his physician prescribed would interfere with his ability to drive a car or truck safely. A subtle as some of the effects are, sometimes being stopped for a traffic infraction by a police officer may be the first indication of impairment due to that drug or treatment.
With many people complaining of insomnia, lack of energy, trouble staying awake at work, sleep aids such as Ambien and Lunesta are find increased use throughout the population — and this I where the trouble really begins for many drivers who either don’t know or were not told about the effects of these drugs.
Charges of DWI — or more often, drug DUI — stemming from use of prescription drugs such as oxycontin and other narcotic medications are hardly new to law enforcement here in the Garden State. In fact, municipal and state police agencies have for quite some time been very aggressive in their efforts to curb drug-related DUIs. Similarly, state, county and city prosecutors take very seriously what some believe is an epidemic of prescription medication DUI cases.
Relatively recently, the war on drug-related impaired driving has added a additional suspects to its list of potentially dangerous meds. More and more, Ambien, Lunesta and other so-called sleeping pills are being named in DUI cases all across the United States. Although most DWI-DUI attorneys might not be exposed to many of these sleeping pill-related DUI cases, our firm is one of the larger law offices that deals in these kinds of DUI-related traffic cases.
As experienced DUI defense lawyers, we understand that the relatively new problem of sleep driving is a actually a real and bona fide side effect of many sleeping aids currently on the market. From a legal standpoint, we also know that there are serious issues confronting police agencies and prosecutors’ offices that wish to pursue convictions of individuals affected by this phenomenon. It is a matter of fact that U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has named sleep driving as a possible side effect of drugs like Ambien and other prescription sleep aids.
In fact, the FDA describes one of the potential effects of these sedative-hypnotic products as causing a person to operate a motor vehicle “while not fully awake” and having “no memory of the event” afterwards. What is abundantly clear, from our standpoint, is that there certainly exist legitimate grounds for challenging a sleeping pill DWI-DUI. All the more reason to consult a qualified legal expert if you or someone you know has been charged with driving under the influence.