Archive for May, 2015

Sleep Driving as a Defense to Houston DWI


Texas criminal defense attorneyDoes a defendant in Houston, Harris County and Montgomery County need to make a voluntary choice to be convicted of driving drunk? This is a question that comes up in some complex DWI cases. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, a DWI defense lawyer can help you to explore ways to make it difficult for a prosecutor to prove the case against you. If you can disprove any part of the crime, you should avoid conviction.

Some defendants try to avoid being convicted of driving drunk by claiming that they did not make a choice to engage in the behavior. This defense may work under limited circumstances depending upon state laws. You need to make sure you talk to a lawyer before raising any defense because an argument that worked for one defendant may not work for you.

Does DWI Require a Voluntary Act?

Courthouse News reported one DWI defendant who was challenging the suspension of his license to drive. His license was revoked by a hearing officer as part of administrative proceedings that result in the automatic suspension of a driver’s license when someone is considered to be impaired. The motorist had been arrested for having alcohol in his system while driving, and his license was revoked because he was over-the-limit.

The motorist also had Ambien in his system at the time of his DWI arrest. The Ambien detected through chemical testing was in normal therapeutic dose. One known side effect of Ambien is that the medication can result in people getting up and doing things after they have taken the pills and while they are asleep. A person who acts while sleeping is in a somnambulistic state. Sleep driving is a common activity that people who take Ambien do when they are in a somnambulistic state.

The motorist claims that he shouldn’t have lost his license because he was not acting voluntarily when he got behind the wheel drunk after he took Ambien and acted in a somnambulistic state. He believes that the hearing officer who held that his license should be revoked made an error in ruling that a DWI does not require a voluntary act.

The motorist who is challenging his suspension is in Colorado, so the case will be heard in Colorado courts and the local DWI laws will be interpreted in order to determine if the driver should lose his license for a period of time.  Other state laws may be written differently and a different outcome may occur if a defendant tries to challenge a license suspension or a DWI charge by claiming that he should not be held accountable because he acted involuntarily while on Ambien or was under the influence of other prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

Texas plaintiffs have previously had charges dropped when they claimed they acted involuntarily and drove under the influence of Ambien.  The Guardian reported on one Texas woman who battled for years to get her charges dropped — she was ultimately successful.

Whenever you have any type of complex DWI case, it is important to have an experienced DWI defense lawyer to help determine the best course of action.

Call Joseph LaBella & Associates today at 800-395-5951 or visit to speak with a Houston DWI defense lawyer. Serving Harris County, Montgomery County, and communities along Interstate 45 through The Woodlands and Conroe.