Operating a Vehicle on Insomnia Medications May Be Illegal in Michigan

January 14, 2013
by The Law Office of Steven L. Schwartz

Operating while intoxicated (OWI) or operating while visibly impaired (OWVI) are both offenses for driving after using alcohol or drugs in Michigan.

OWI is an offense that can result from three different situations. It can be while operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol or drugs, which have impaired your ability to drive safely. Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater will result in an OWI charge. Driving with a blood alcohol content of .17 or greater will result in “High BAC” charges with more severe fines and penalties attached.

OWVI charges arise when you are operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired because of alcohol or drugs.

Operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired because of drugs does not necessarily mean marijuana, cocaine or some other controlled substance. It can be something as innocent as taking a prescription medication for insomnia. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has just issued a warning to doctors about dosage guidelines for the popular sleep aid Ambien, especially for female patients.

The active ingredient for Ambien is zolpidem and it is also the primary ingredient for Edluar and Zolpimist.

It has been confirmed in studies that zolpidem is not as quickly metabolized as it was first thought, causing the FDA to ask doctors to reduce the recommended dosage to 5mg from 10mg for female patients. If the patient is taking the extended release version, the FDA is recommending reducing the dosage to 6.25mg from 12.5mg. It also asked that doctors consider reductions in dosage for male patients.

For the 40 million Americans who take insomnia medications, there is the risk of injury to themselves and others because of morning drowsiness. The cause for the alarm is that many patients still had considerable zolpidem blood levels the next day after taking the medication for sleep the evening before. This could result in drivers going to work the next morning essentially driving drunk, according to a physician at Meridian Health in New Jersey. Dr. Carol Ash warned that driving or operating machinery and heavy equipment should be avoided, due of the possibility of impaired thinking and reaction times.

Consequently, if a police officer observes you weaving from one lane to another, going off the pavement, disobeying traffic signals and driving too fast or too slowly you will be pulled over. If the officer feels that you are visibly impaired, you will be arrested and charged with an OWI or OWVI.

Under these circumstances, even though you had not been drinking and only taking a prescription medication, the charges that you face are essentially the same as if you were found to be driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. The same driver’s license sanctions, fines and penalties will apply to you if you are convicted of drugged driving. This will be a part of your permanent criminal record.

If you or someone you know has been arrested and charged with any substance and abuse charges, you need to seek the advice of a Michigan criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in handling drunk and impaired driving cases.

Steven L. Schwartz is a third generation Detroit area lawyer who has defended the rights of citizens for over 20 years. He will work hard to obtain the best possible result for you.

Contact us online or call our office direct at (248) 930-5019 to schedule your free initial consultation. Payment plans are available.

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