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Hammer O'Justice
Hammer O'Justice, Criminal Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 4500
Experience:  Almost 12 years of legal experience, primarily in criminal law
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DUI charge and Ambien: I am facing my 3rd DUI in Virginia.

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DUI charge and Ambien: I am facing my 3rd DUI in Virginia. My first two were related to alcohol because I am an alcoholic which I agree with. This 3rd DUI, I had no alcohol in my system. I had been prescribed Ambien in the Sych ward which I was released from on 8/1/13. Then on 8/4/13 I was arrested for DUI after I bumped the car next to me. They did not even submit a claim to the insurance company for damages. I have no damage to my car. I was also charged with Driving on a Suspended which I don't disagree with. However, I took the pills as prescribed and I have the original bottle with 27 out of 30 pills left. I have not taken any pills since or had any alcohol since 7/13. The officer said I failed the field sobriety test and I was taken to the hospital for a blood test. Because I am an alcoholic I have my husband administer my pills to me. I am in a co-occurring group at Community Service Board and make sure my meds are not addictive or habit forming. I told this to the Shrink at the Psych Ward and he assured me I would be ok with this drug. I feel this is crazy because I was trying to do the right thing. However, I did drive a vehicle which I have no license. I also parked in the handicap spots. I did not do the walking portion of the test because I had broken both of my ankles two weeks before. I was in temporary casts and should not have been walking. I passed the counting backwards test. I failed the ABC test he said because I went to P and did not stop at O. He also said I had slow eye movement when following his finger. Please Help!!! I need to know how bad this is and if there is anything I can do. I assure you I had no alcohol in my system and I hope they tested my blood for that as well.

Under Virginia law, it doesn't matter if you were drunk or under the influence of a narcotic can still be charged with a DUI. Even if the narcotic drug in question is a legally prescribed drug, if it is impairing your ability to drive, then you are not allowed to be driving. One of the warnings/side effects of Ambien is that you are told not to drive a vehicle because as much as a day after you can be impaired by it. So if your blood test indicates that the Ambien was in your system then you may have an issue with that, regardless of whether you were drinking.

A third DUI is quite serious. If the other DUIs were within 5 years of this one, then you have to serve a mandatory six months in jail. If they were within the last 10 years, then the jail time is reduced to 90 days, but is still mandatory. There is a minimum fine of $1000 and your license will be suspended indefinitely (you can petition to have it returned after 5 years, but you will have to have an ignition interlock installed to get it back). The fact that you were also driving with no license will not go over terribly well with the judge. Consequently, it would be a good idea to get an attorney as soon as possible, either by hiring one or applying for the public defender.

Essentially, to rebut the evidence against you, you will have to try to show that your driving was not actually impaired by the Ambien. The problem is, because you not only failed the standard field sobriety tests but you were also in an accident, it strongly suggests that your driving was impaired. If the concentration of the Ambien in your system is low, however, then an attorney can try to argue that the driving issues and the test failure were not indicative of drug intoxication but were just bad luck or bad driving.

I'm sorry I can't give you better news. I know it is not what you want to hear. But I just want you to be prepared to best fight this, and that would probably be with a lawyer to help you.
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