According to an article published by the Vallejo Times Herald, former Vallejo Police captain Tony Pearsall was arrestd Sunday night for driving under the influence (DUI). According to the article, a witness observed Mr. Pearsall hit a parked car in a Lucky's Market parking lot. Mr. Pearsall was than seen by police officers driving slowly down the wrong side of the street. After submitting to a blood test, Mr. Pearsall was charged with driving under the influence.
According to Mr. Pearsall's attorney, Dan Russo, his client was suffering an adverse reaction to the presciption drug Ambien. Ambien is precribed to treat insomnia. In other words, it is a sleeping pill. According to the Physician's Desk Reference website:
After taking AMBIEN, you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are
doing. The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night. You have a higher chance for doing
these activities if you drink alcohol or take other medicines that make you sleepy with AMBIEN.
The major problem with this a a defense to DUI is taking any drug before driving, including Ambien, can constitute driving under the influence if that drug has an appreciable effect on your ability to safely drive a car. It is probably not a huge leap to assume that taking a sleeping pill before getting behind the wheel of a car might not be a great idea. In order for Mr. Russo to win with this defense he must convince a jury that Mr. Pearsall reasonably did not know that taking Ambien would effect his ability to drive. Another way to succeed with this defense would be to show that Mr. Pearsall was sleep driving, since the Government must prove that any DUI defendant voluntarily drove a car. If he was asleep Mr. Pearsall did not act voluntarily.
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