DUI and Ambien, Lunesta, Prescription Sleep Medications

Pinellas / St. Petersburg / Clearwater DUI Defense Lawyers

Ambien: Unintended Side-Effects

If you have been arrested in St. Petersburg or Clearwater for a DUI involving the use of Ambien, we can help.

Ambien (zolpedim) and Lunesta (eszopiclone) have become some of the nation’s most popular sleeping aids used to combat sleeping disorders.  With this popularity we have seen an increasing number of incidents of clients who take Ambien or Luensta and then drive with no later memory of their actions the following day.  This occurrence, known as sleep-driving, is becoming more prevalent in DUI cases.  Ambien has also been linked to other abnormal activities that occur while the individual is actually asleep including eating, making phone calls and sleep walking.

Ambien and Sleep Driving

Sleep-driving can occur between a state of sleep and wakefulness after taking Ambien or Lunesta.  The individual is not fully awake while driving and will typically have no memory of their conduct or actions.  Reports have shown that sleep-driving may involve extremely impaired driving behaviors. For example, driving on the wrong side of the road and hitting motionless objects such as parked cars, light poles or road signs. Law enforcement officers often report that such drivers typically were unaware that an accident had even occurred.

Many cases of sleep-driving result from people:

  • Taking a higher than recommended dosage of Ambien;
  • Combining it with any amount of alcohol;
  • Waking the individual before they have had a full nights sleep.

The FDA Says Drivers Using Sleep Medications May Not Be At Fault

In March, 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised producers of sedative-hypnotic drugs (drugs that help with sleep disorders) to modify their warning labels to strongly emphasize the possible risks related to such medications.  Drug manufacturers were told to include labels that expressly warned of sleep-driving, allergic reactions, and unusual behavior.

Click here to review the actual FDA advisory.

Even though Ambien / zolpedim is linked to more car accidents than any other sleeping medication, the FDA did not restrict this advisory to Ambien alone. The following medications also carry the same warnings:

  • Butisol Sodium (Medpointe Pharm HLC)
  • Carbrital (Parke-Davis)
  • Dalmane (Valeant Pharm)
  • Doral (Questcor Pharms)
  • Halcion (Pharmacia & Upjohn)
  • Lunesta (Sepracor)
  • Placidyl (Abbott)
  • Prosom (Abbott)
  • Restoril (Tyco Healthcare)
  • Rozerem (Takeda)
  • Seconal (Lilly)
  • Sonata (King Pharmaceuticals)

DUI & Ambien – A Combination not Contemplated by Florida Law

In order to convict you of DUI, the prosecutor must prove that you were driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and that you were under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Typically, the State would rely upon a toxicology report showing the presence of the controlled substance. However, under Florida law, Ambien and many other sleeping drugs are not classified as controlled substances. In fact, Ron Bell the former Chief Toxicologist with the Pinellas County Medical Examiners Office tells us that in Pinellas County, “urinalysis testing does not even screen for Ambien or other sleep medications.”  Since Ambien is not considered a controlled substance, your lawyer may be able to negate this essential element of the offense.  As a result, your DUI case may be a good candidate for the filing of a motion to dismiss. In the alternative, your facts might justify a reduction from DUI to the lesser offense of Reckless Driving.

Asking the Right Questions
Asking the Right Questions…

Scheduling a free appointment with our office will enable us to uncover important facts about your case:

  • Did you have a valid prescription for your sleep medication?
  • Was the arresting officer made aware that you had taken the medication?
  • Is there any evidence to suggest you took more than the recommended dosage?
  • Did you benefit from a full nights rest or were you awoken early?
  • Was there evidence that you had also consumed alcohol?
  • Did you provide a urine sample in connection with your arrest?
  • How would a refusal to submit to a breath or urine test affect your case?
  • Was the officer who administered the field sobriety tests a properly trained Drug Recognition Expert?
  • Can a continuance of your court date be obtained to secure the toxicology report from the Pinellas County Medical Examiners Office and to further investigate your options?

We are St. Petersburg / Clearwater DUI Defense Attorneys who defend people charged with DUI – Ambien related offenses.

Call our office for a free consultation at (727) 578-0303

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