NY jury acquits Kerry Kennedy of DWAI involving Ambien

In recent years, public awareness has increased significantly around the issue of driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Particularly discussed are powerful sleep aids such as Ambien. In rare cases, the drug has been associated with strange behaviors including sleep-walking, sleep-eating and even sleep-driving.

New Yorkers have been well aware of the potential consequences of Ambien-impaired driving after Kerry Kennedy was charged with “driving while ability impaired” In mid 2012. The consequences for a conviction of DWAI involving drugs are the same as those for drunk driving (DWI). Ms. Kennedy, the daughter of Robert Kennedy and ex-wife of Gov. Cuomo, drove for about five miles after mistakenly taking Ambien. After a jury trial this week however, Ms. Kennedy was found not guilty.

According to USA Today, Kennedy was on her way to the gym on a day in July 2012 when she became impaired by a 10-milligram dose of Ambien. The pill had a similar shape and color as one which she takes for her thyroid.

Considering that she was on her way to the gym, there was seemingly no reason to believe that taking the Ambien was intentional. Therefore, the criminal charges focused on whether Kennedy continued to drive after realizing her mistake.

She is among only 0.2 percent of defendants tried in Westchester County who have been found not guilty of misdemeanor charges in recent years. Her attorneys have argued that these criminal charges were unwarranted and never should have been pursued in the first place.

It seems clear that Ms. Kennedy’s actions, while dangerous, had no criminal or reckless intent. Rather she mistakenly took Ambien, believing it to be a different drug that would in no way impair her ability to drive. In light of this, the jury made the right decision in finding her not guilty.

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