IS SLEEP DRIVING EQUAL TO DWI?
I have handled a number of people in the past who were on Ambien or the like and didn’t have control of their faculties but were “sleep driving” and got arrested for DWI because it was medication that made them do it or whatever the argument was. I haven’t seen one of these cases in years. I hope that people have taken the advice and put the keys away when taking this medication. I had also heard of people sleep eating and gaining weight while on the drug and they had no idea what was happening.
In Texas, whether you know or not is not at issue. State of mind is not an element of DWI, so you don’t have to knowingly or intentionally drive while intoxicated (DWI). But what if you weren’t on medication? People have sleepwalked without medication, so it’s not out of the realm that someone could sleep drive, is it?
Such a case happened recently and, thankfully, the driver was not found criminally responsible. Sometimes things happen. Sometimes bad things happen, and I will say that I wouldn’t want to be around a “sleep driver.” But not everything is a crime, and even things that could, on a reach, be construed as a crime don’t always need to be prosecuted. Just because you can prosecute, doesn’t mean you should. Justice can also be served without a prosecution. The story of the sleep driver is below and the article can also be found here.
Sleep-driving woman ‘not criminally responsible’ for drunk-driving charge
A Hamilton court has found a woman not criminally responsible for drunk driving because she was in the throes of parasomnia.
The 48-year-old was spotted driving erratically on the Lincoln Alexander Parkway and arrested on Fennell Avenue East one early morning in July two years ago.
“The female operator was staring straight ahead,” a judge’s recent written decision noted. “When asked to exit the vehicle, the female stumbled and almost fell down.”
However, court later heard, the woman didn’t recall the entire episode because she had been sleep-driving.
“She fell sleep and that is the last thing she remembers. Her next recollection is in the holding cell in the police station,” Justice George S. Gage writes in a decision released in May.
“She states that she did not voluntarily consume alcohol on July 7 or 8 and she did not voluntarily operate her motor vehicle.”
Parasomnia causing automatism — meaning actions are not voluntary — is a rare, but not unprecedented, defence in criminal cases.
They don’t always lead to acquittals, however.
Last year, for example, a 30-year-old Beamsville man who struck and killed a 31-year-old St. Catharines man on the QEW was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death in spite of his sleep-driving defence.
Ryan Quatsch had alcohol, cocaine and marijuana in his blood when he drove his pickup truck the wrong way down the QEW and hit Greg Morley near Fifty Road in October 2014.