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Man could still go to jail after being acquitted of drugged driving

Imagine a Silver Spring man being acquitted of driving under the influence of drugs. In most situations, that Maryland man would be free to go and the state could no longer hold him. In very few situations, however, he could find himself on his way to prison. Unfortunately for one out-of-state man, this is exactly the situation he is facing after he was acquitted of drugged driving.

The 45-year-old man had taken an Ambien to fall asleep one night and when he woke up, he was in jail and shackled to a chair. He was surprised to learn that he had been sleep driving and had crashed his car, though he luckily had not injured anyone. This is exactly the story that he told a jury, the same jury that eventually acquitted him of driving under the influence of a drug and resisting arrest.

This "Ambien defense" has been used across the country, as this rare side effect is not an isolated event. In many of the cases in which a driver says he or she was sleep driving after taking an Ambien, someone is injured or killed. For some drivers, a sympathetic jury or judge will accept the defense and acquit. In others, the Ambien defense will lessen the punishment or lead to lesser charges.

This story, however, presents a unique situation. The 45-year-old driver is currently on parole for another crime and, after he was acquitted by a jury, he will face a parole-board commissioner who will determine if he violated the terms of his parole. If the commissioner determines he has, he will be sentenced for up to 180 days in jail.

Unlike a criminal trial in which a jury must find a suspect guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a parole-board commissioner need only determine if the driver was guilty on a preponderance of the evidence, a much lower standard.

Source: Mercury News, "Man acquitted after 'Ambien defense' now faces parole board," Tracey Kaplan, Aug. 22, 2012

If you have questions about drugged or drunk driving in Maryland, take a look at our website.

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