A Coweta County jury convicted M. Myers of five counts of DUI after a jury trial in Newnan Georgia. Myers was arrested for DUI after she was pulled over for weaving by Corporal Chris Segrest of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Department. Corporal Segrest testified that Myers’s speech was slurred, her eyes were glassy, she had a strong odor of alcohol on her breath, was unsteady on her feet, was wearing pajamas, and admitted drinking two glasses of wine, a Xanax, and two Ambien.
She had a blood test of 0.093 just barely above the legal limit for alcohol in the State of Georgia of 0.08 and consistent with two glasses of wine for a woman. The amount of Xanax in her blood was consistent with the therapeutic amount normally prescribed by physicians. However, the Ambien was two to three times the prescribed dosage. Myers testified that she took a Xanax before dinner, drank two glasses of wine with dinner, and took two doses of Ambien after dinner to help her sleep. She had prescriptions for all the medication taken. She has no memory of taking the second Ambien and waking up in jail.
Myers attorney essentially argued that she had no intent to drive under the influence and objected to a charge read to the jury by the Trial Court which stated that the State did not need to prove intent to violate the law but simply to prove intent to do the act which results in the violation of the law since DUI is not a law of specific intent but general intent or malum prohibitum (bad because it’s prohibited) and not malum in se (bad in itself). The Court cited Crossley v. State, where a person blacked out while driving and the Court of Appeals held that the State need only prove that the Defendant drove while in an intoxicated state. The Court of Appeals concluded that Myers intentionally ingested alcohol, Xanax, and Ambien and then drove in an intoxicated state. Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court’s refusal to instruct the jury on her lack of specific intent was irrelevant.
The Appellate Court’s reasoning is sound in the sense that clearly Myers intended to drink, take Xanax and Ambien, but how can anyone intend to drive if they are wearing pajamas and taking a sleep aid. If anything, Myers seems to have intended to go to bed and the Ambien either acting alone or in combination with other substances caused her to drive. So where is the evidence of intent to drive? Sure as in Crossley v. State, supra, if you drive to a bar, drink, blackout, and drive home, there is at least circumstantial evidence of intent to drive but that does not seem to be present here.
The lesson here is either don’t take Ambien or do not take Ambien with any other drugs or alcohol. If you do you may wake up with a DUI or worse. There have been class-action lawsuits filed over the unintended effects of Ambien. The stories are legion and horrifying including sleep-driving, sleep eating, sleep sex, shaving hair in unusual places, etc.