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According to Consumer Reports, 27 percent of adults say they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights, and 68 percent--or an estimated 164 million Americans--struggled with sleep at least once a week.

For most people, sleep is valuable and a quality night of rest will dictate the outcome of the day ahead. Because of this, the sleeping aid industry generates around $7 billion annually. From special pillows and mattresses to white-noise machines and pills. About 4 percent of Americans use a prescription sleep aid, and over 40 million prescriptions for sleeping pills are dispensed annually, the most popular being Ambien.

What is Ambien?

Ambien, a member of the class of medications known as hypnotics, is a sedative and affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with sleep problems. Many times Ambien is used to treat insomnia. When consumed properly the drug helps people fall asleep. There is also an extended-release form of the drug, which can help people stay asleep. Ambien may impair thinking and reactions and may cause someone to feel sleepy the morning after. This drug, like many others, does not mix well with alcohol and really doesn’t mix well with other prescriptions. Many people take Ambien as prescribed and treat their insomnia successfully. But problems that do occur with the drug are often extreme and tragic, and they seem to be increasing.

What Can Happen When You Drive Drugged?

Driving under the influence of anything (sleep aids, allergy drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, etc) can affect a person’s operation of a motor vehicle. If pulled over for erratic driving, a police officer can check for dilated pupils, poor coordination, and other signs to make a determination if someone is impaired because of a drug. The officer can then charge you with a DUI and arrange for a blood test.

Driving drugged can lead to other outcomes as well. Violations and accidents are common results of DUI, and some accidents could lead to death--either of the driver or innocent bystanders. Even if you’ve done no harm to anyone, erratic driving due to the consumption of medication can lead to an arrest.

What is Sleep Driving?

Sleep driving occurs when you take a medication like Ambien, go to sleep, unknowingly wake up, start sleep-walking, and then drive a car. It is a growing danger with the rise of sleep aid prescriptions and more and more people are getting charged with this type of DUI.  However, there may be an “Ambien Defense.”

“Ambien Defense”

In many states, DUI laws punish voluntary intoxication, NOT involuntary intoxication. Involuntary intoxication results from force or fraud. Generally, when a person is prescribed a drug by a doctor which leads to intoxication, that intoxication is considered involuntary. If a defendant consumed drugs by force, fraud, or is mistaken as to the nature of his/her intoxication, involuntary intoxication may be a defense to a DUI charge. Minnesota law also allows for an affirmative defense to driving under a Schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance, if the defendant followed the instructions/terms of valid prescription.

If this situation is familiar, you need legal representation. Carolyn Agin Schmidt provides aggressive, confident, and skilled defense for individuals facing serious charges related to driving under the influence, or criminal vehicular operations/homicide.


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