A new problem in our State has emerged. Ambien has become the new date rape drug. In the 90’s Rohypnol was the date rape drug. It is a Schedule I drug which meaning it has no medical purpose in the United States, is illegal to even possess, and if ever caught with the possession of Rohypnol it is a mandatory prison sentence.
Now People are using Ambien as a date rape drug. It is easy to obtain, creates an odd taste to a drink when tablets are crushed up and put in a drink, and if someone is caught with Ambien at a bar, they just claim they have a prescription. They sell a version of this drug the counter in Mexico. It has been mentioned in USA Today story detailing the Darren Sharper allegations.
The 2 problems we see with Ambien and driving are the following:
1. You go out for the night. You are a responsible hard working person and only have 2 drinks and you are not under the influence of alcohol; but since someone slipped something in your drink, or someone else’s drink you shared. You drive home and are clearly not under the influence of alcohol when they driving home. You are under the influence of the drug Ambien and it is NOT YOUR FAULT. Ambien has a very short shelf-life, so unless you get a blood test as part of your DUI, it may well be out of your system and undetectable when you are released from police custody or a detoxification facility.
This happened to me.
My wife and I were on a beach. My wife walked up to the bar to get a drink while I was talking with another couple (lawyers always are talking). She bought a drink. We were on a beach so she bought the drink down to me at the beach. She did not like the taste of the drink (Ambien in it so odd taste) so she gave the drink to me; I only drank 1/2 of the drink and threw it out. 8 hours later I woke up in bed in a cold sweat and thought I was still standing on a beach. Apparently, my wife and I talked for hours, swam in the ocean, and walked back along the beach to our hotel. I have no memory of any of this.
The only thing I had consumed before and after 1/2 of this alcoholic drink was bottled water. Unfortunately, while under the influence of Ambien I did not put on any sunscreen, so I woke up with a terrible sunburn.
2. You take the Ambien pill that you are legally prescribed before you go to bed. You go to sleep. A few hours later, you are woken-up for some reason (phone rings, spouse comes to bed, a sudden noise in your environment etc.). You wake up, and you will likely not suppress any cravings you have, cigarettes, alcohol, food etc. You will be able to walk normally, have conversations, make rational decisions and talk with a slight slur. In reality, you may not even remember being awake. You get in your car and go to the store. On the way to the store you drive into a parked car because you fell asleep at the wheel.
In May 2013, the FDA required the Ambien Bottle label to be changed. The problem is that you are either not knowingly ingesting a drug, or you are taking a legal prescription and this is a side effect. The prosecutor looks at the blood test and says you were under the influence of drugs and must plead guilty. If no blood test was taken, we may never have proof. You are the square peg in the round hole and unless you find someone who has experience with these cases, you livelihood may be in jeopardy!
If you have been charged with a DUI or a DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drug) please consult with an experienced attorney. Under scenario 1 above, you may be able to assert that you suffered from involuntary intoxication and did not knowingly commit a crime. If you are charged under scenario 2, you voluntarily took your prescribed medication so you may only be able to assert that it was not a knowing commission of a crime. Regardless, you will have an uphill battle.
As one Deputy District Attorney stated to me this year, “you really educated me on Ambien and the law.” In that case we were able to get the alcohol / drug related charges completely dismissed! It took a lot of work 99 months), patience by the client, an expert opinion and a lot of money before we were able to get JUSTICE. In the end, the truth won out and my client was grateful!