It seems like something out of a bad detective story, but as more and more people have begun taking prescription drugs with sleepwalking as a side effect, the number of crimes committed by sleepwalkers have dramatically increased over the last few decades and most commonly include offenses such as murder, sex crimes (a specific condition called sexsomnia results in this offense) and driving under the influence. That being said, while these parasomnia incidents are happening with increasing frequency, your defense attorney will still typically be hesitant to use the sleepwalking defense in most cases. Here’s what you should know.
Sleepwalking as a Criminal Defense
The first thing that you should know is that like the insanity defense, your attorney will likely be hesitant to use this defense strategy. It is considered a long shot, very rarely applies to criminal cases and there are usually better defenses available in most cases. That being said, if you actually did commit a crime while sleepwalking, telling the truth might be the best way to go. That being said, whether you commit a crime while awake or asleep, you should absolutely refuse to speak to the police without first discussing your case with a criminal lawyer.
Why do People Sleepwalk?
The reasons for sleepwalking vary. Some people are just naturally prone to it, some patients with Parkinson’s Disease develop the behavior as their condition progresses and some medications (including anti-depressants and sleep aids) can actually cause sleep walking.
Ambien has caused some people to unconsciously do things like drive. If someone drives under the influence of Ambien without knowing they were driving or that Ambien causes that type of behavior, it could be a defense to driving under the influence of drugs. Of course, if other substances are found in the driver’s system it may defeat this defense -unless the person consumed these substances while sleepwalking.
Regardless of the cause, in most cases a person will know about the condition before he or she ever does something illegal while sleepwalking. A significant other, family member or doctor aware of the condition could be a vital witness to someone trying to use a sleepwalking defense. In many cases, witnesses will recall seeing the person performing tasks in their sleep that they have no recollection of when they wake up.
Expert Testimony Can Make or Break These Cases
Because these cases are so rare and so often misunderstood, your defense will usually require the testimony of an expert witness familiar with similar sleep disorders. He or she can attest not only to your behavior, but also to any underlying cause of your sleepwalking. The expert will also be critical in establishing that you are not responsible for your behavior while sleep walking, even if witnesses believed you were in control of your mental state at the time.
Do Not Attempt this Defense On Your Own
It is important to recognize that even the slightest detail could work for or against you if you are attempting the sleepwalking defense. Be sure to speak with a Carlsbad defense attorney as soon as possible if you have been accused of a crime that you may have committed while asleep.
If you have been accused of committing any crime while sleepwalking, criminal attorney Peter M. Liss can help you evaluate your options to come up with the best possible defense for your situation. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.