More people using 'sleep-driving' as legitimate defense

In May, we discussed sleepwalking as a possible defense in certain criminal cases. In one instance, a man got in his car and drove 14 miles. He later strangled his father-in-law and beat his mother-in-law before stabbing them both. He said the whole thing happened while he was sleepwalking, and a jury believed him.

Similarly, people who have committed crimes after they took a sleeping pill are using the "sleep-driving" defense and winning. Recently, a man in another state was found not guilty of driving under the influence of a drug and resisting arrest after arguing to a jury that he was not aware of what he was doing after taking a sleeping pill.

Millions of Americans take sleeping pills. While they help many people get the rest they need, they sometimes have adverse side effects.

Three years ago, a woman was on trial for fatally injuring a mother of 11. She was acquitted after using the sleep-driving defense.

The Food and Drug Administration has recognized that sleeping pills can cause "complex sleep-related behaviors." People may drive, cook and make phone calls in their sleep without even knowing it.

Although the man in this most recent case was found not guilty, he will have to go before a parole-board commissioner because he was on parole at the time of the incident for bank robbery. If it is considered a violation of his parole, he could face as many as 180 days behind bars.

While it may seem far-fetched to some, sleep-driving appears to be the cause of a variety of crimes. Birmingham residents who face criminal charges for a sleep-driving incident would be wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: San Jose Mercury News, "Man acquitted after 'Ambien defense' now faces parole board," Tracey Kaplan, Aug. 21, 2012

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