Is sleepwalking a plausible criminal defense?

When someone in Birmingham is charged with a crime, it is wise to begin developing a strong criminal defense. Every defense is different and is based on the individual criminal case. However, some defense strategies are particularly unique. Despite its uniqueness, one criminal defense appears to be plausible in some situations.

About 15 percent of people have trouble with sleepwalking. In fact, of the 16,000 adults surveyed by the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center, about 29 percent said they had sleepwalked at some point in their life.

For many people, sleepwalking does not pose a major problem. However, there have been instances in which people committed crimes while they were sleepwalking.

In 2006, a man was accused of touching a 12-year-old girl inappropriately while staying at a friend's home. After proving that he had a history of sleep problems, and was sleepwalking at the time of the incident, the charges against him were dropped.

Medical experts say that sleepwalking is not a mental condition but rather a sleep disorder. People may drive their car, wander long distances, have sex or even commit crimes while they are sleeping without having any idea what they are doing.

More than two decades ago, a man drove 14 miles before strangling his father-in-law, beating his mother-in-law and stabbing them both. The man arrived at the police station with no clue what he had done. Jurors found the man innocent after it was proved that his family suffered from sleep disorders.

Although this kind of a defense seems farfetched, the medical community seems to understand the types of situations sleepwalkers can land themselves in. While it may be difficult to use this kind of defense in court, having documentation of previous sleep disorders may help.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Sleepwalking used as legitimate criminal defense," Wayne K. Roustan, May 20, 2012

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