Kerry Kennedy was recently involved in a car accident. She was arrested on DUI charges, but it is actually suspected that she was driving after haven taken the prescription medication Ambien.
Ambien is used by patients who need help falling asleep. However, the side effects of this drug have been known to cause what has been named "sleep driving."
Initially, this is what Kennedy told police, that she had taken an Ambien pill before going to bed, and that she must have been sleep driving. Subsequently, she has denied the Ambien defense possibly because it is an admission of guilt as to drugged driving.
However, such an admission has been used in many criminal cases against drivers with at least some success. In fact, one such case involved Kerry Kennedy's cousin, Patrick Kennedy, who also claimed that he was involved in an Ambien-induced sleep driving accident.
In another case that was recently decided by a jury, a 45-year-old woman was facing charges of vehicular assault for an incident that took place in 2009. Even though the warning label warned against it, the woman took an Ambien pill after drinking several glasses of wine.
That night she was involved in an Ambien-induced sleep driving accident in which she crashed into a family of three and injured a toddler. She only remembers taking the Ambien pill, and then waking up in jail. She pled guilty and could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, the jury believed that she had no intention to drive and gave her probation instead.
In another case, a jury acquitted a 56-year-old woman in a fatal crash that killed a mother of 11 children.
In yet another story of an accused driver avoiding jail time, a 36-year-old lawyer was acquitted in an Ambien-induced sleep driving crash in which the driver was charged with vehicular homicide. In that case, the driver was acquitted because the judge was unable to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was voluntarily intoxicated while driving.
Though several other drivers from around the country have also been acquitted of criminal charges using the Ambien defense, the Supreme Court as of yet has declined to decide the issue. This leaves open the possibility for anyone in Washington who has been charged with DUI after ingesting an Ambien pill to employ an Ambien defense.
Source: Forbes, "Kerry Kennedy DUI Arrest Likely Caused by Sleep Driving - Just Like Cousin Patrick's Capitol Hill Crash (Updated)," Kari Falkenberg, July 14, 2012