In a recent case, the Oregon Supreme Court threw out the DUI conviction of a Portland man who was “sleep driving.”
Man did not voluntarily get behind the wheel
According to The Oregonian, the Court stated that the man should have been allowed to argue to the jury that he did not voluntarily get behind the wheel, and was therefore not responsible for driving with an illegal blood alcohol concentration. Since he did not get a chance to make this argument, the Court ruled that the man is entitled to a new trial.
The man’s case is based on an incident that occurred in 2008 when the man walked to a restaurant and had drinks with friends. A friend later gave the man a ride home. The man says later that night he got into his car and began driving while he was asleep. The man was a known sleepwalker and reported sleep-walking around his home on prior occasions.
During this particular incident, a police officer pulled the man over after noticing the vehicle engaging in traffic violations. The man acknowledged that he had been drinking and was charged with a DUI. However, he never admitted to voluntarily or consciously getting behind the wheel of his car.
He planned to present this defense at trial, and a local doctor was prepared to testify that sleep-driving was unconscious behavior. The judge would not allow the sleep-walking evidence to be presented.
An Oregon general criminal statute states that in order to be held responsible for a crime, a defendant must commit a “voluntary act.” The Oregon Supreme Court referred to this statute when making its decision to overturn the man’s conviction.
Decision may influence current DUI law
The decision could have a significant impact on available DUI defenses in Oregon. Previously, judges assumed that it was only necessary for prosecutors to show that an individual charged with a DUI was driving with a BAC of .08 percent or higher.
The ruling may now allow defendants a wider range of possible defenses. The prospect of additional defenses may be beneficial to individuals who are charged with a DUI, since a DUI conviction currently comes with severe penalties. Along with substantial fines and mandatory jail time, a driver’s license is automatically suspended for 1 year with a first DUI conviction, and three years year for a subsequent conviction. Additionally, mandatory drug or alcohol treatment may be imposed and an ignition interlock device may be required.
A DUI conviction comes with numerous negative consequences that can have a severe and permanent impact on an individual’s life. An individual charged with a DUI can benefit by speaking with an experienced DUI attorney. A qualified attorney can evaluate all evidence obtained by the prosecution and help prepare a solid defense.