Lunesta and Ambien - Result in DUI Charges

A couple of weeks ago, drug company Sepracor announced that its earnings have fallen this year. While their press release didn’t say why, one reason is easy to guess: A major product for Sepracor, the sleep aid Lunesta, has generated a storm of negative publicity recently. Like Ambien, which I wrote about here recently, Lunesta is often reported to cause people to do strange things in their sleep that they don’t remember on waking - including driving while asleep. Like Ambien, Lunesta is implicated in an increasingly large number of DUIs. And studies show that Lunesta is longer-acting than Ambien, meaning it takes longer to clear your system. This opens early risers to the possibility of being cited for driving to work while technically intoxicated - from something they took more than eight hours before.
Interestingly, according to this article in the New York Times, a 1998 study published in a British medical journal called The Lancet makes a direct connection between car accidents and zopiclone, the chemical parent of Lunesta (whose generic name is eszopiclone). If this is also true of eszopiclone and other variants on the drug, Sepracor and other companies that market these sleep drugs owe us some very severe warnings on the label!

Legally speaking, you have a good chance of defending yourself from a DUI caused by Lunesta. Just like Ambien, Lunesta causes people to do things they don’t remember in their sleep - which means that those who drive under the influence of Lunesta are not voluntarily choosing to drive. Under the law, you must intend to drive in order to be charged with a DUI. However, past cases suggest that not following safety instructions could hurt your case. For example, labels advise against combining Lunesta and many other sleep aids with alcohol, precisely because you’ll be significantly more impaired afterward. That means if you voluntarily chose to combine them, you may not be able to dismiss your case. And because sleep aid makers also instruct you to make sure to leave enough time to get a full night’s sleep, you may still be on the hook for early-morning driving under the influence of Lunesta - depending on how long it’s been since you took it.

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