In California, driving under the influence of Ambien or other sleeping pills can lead to being arrested for DUI and facing DUI penalties. The penalties will include jail time, license suspension, and 3-5 years of probation, often with difficult requirements. Ambien is one of the more common prescription medications we see involved in DUI cases.
It is possible to defend against a DUI charge for Ambien, with or without alcohol or other drugs involved. A good lawyer can help you get the charge reduced, avoid jail time, or even walk away with no conviction.
What is Ambien and how does it affect driving?
Ambien is a brand name of the drug zolpidem. It is a sedative (sometimes called a “hypnotic”) and it is prescribed mainly to people who suffer from insomnia. Taken in recommended doses, it does not force you to fall asleep, but it can create a feeling of drowsiness as well as a relaxed, calm feeling. These sensations also mean that it is sometimes used recreationally, which is not recommended.
Under state law, the effects of Ambien and other sleeping pills count as impairing driving. The law says that any drug counts if it affects the brain, nervous system or muscles, which Ambien definitely does. Additionally, drowsiness from any cause leads to unsafe driving, and the effects of Ambien on driving are well documented. This is true even when taken on its own, in recommended doses—your doctor should warn you not to drive while under the effects of this drug.
The effects of Ambien can become even more serious if you don’t go to sleep right away, or if you take higher doses. These circumstances can lead to hallucinations.
Not all sleeping pills work the same way as Ambien, but they all affect the brain or nervous system, meaning all of them impair driving. And all sleeping pills can promote drowsiness, even in normal doses.
Mixing Ambien with Alcohol or Other Drugs
Often, we see Ambien DUI cases that involve alcohol as well—even a small amount. This is a very dangerous combination. When Ambien is taken along with alcohol, even hours apart, the effects of both substances intensify. People who use this combination may experience euphoria and relaxation, but also clumsiness, hallucinations, blackout amnesia, and poor motor control. It also becomes easy to overdose, and the combination of Ambien and alcohol can cause death.
Some people also combine Ambien with other drugs, such as Xanax (which amplifies the relaxed feeling) or stimulants (to help stay awake to enjoy the effects). The interactions of these drugs are unpredictable, even for doctors. They can easily create extreme impairment, often with little warning.
You Can Win Your Ambien DUI Case
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.