Harrisburg, PA- Two Pennsylvania Courts have decided that 33 year-old Cory Lee Harington cannot claim “involuntary intoxication” as a defense in his ongoing DUI case.
The Patriot-News reported that Harrington blamed his 2011 DUI arrest on his prescription medications, stating he was not responsible for his intoxicated. However both a county court and the state Supreme Court, disagreed, and although “involuntary intoxication is a valid defense in Pennsylvania and other states, the courts said it couldn’t be applied in Harrington’s case.
Harrington was arrested by police in June of 2011, when a police officer observed him in his green sedan traveling along at 50 mph in the center turn lane of York Road, the Patriot-News said.
According to the police report, Harrington smelled of gasoline, and looked disheveled, but told officers he did not know why he looked or smelled that way he did. Police said that Harrington kept trying to hand them money stating that it was his driver’s license.
Harrington admitted to police that he had three beers, but told them he “felt fine,” only later admitting that he was drunk.
Harrington failed field sobriety tests, but a blood test revealed that he had zolpiden, a generic version of the sleeping aid Ambien, for which he a prescription for.
His attorneys likely wanted to the use the “involuntary intoxication” defense because Ambien and zolpiden has been known to cause sleepwalking, sleep eating and sleep driving among the patients who use the common sleep-aid.
Harrington was convicted of DUI in April of last year and sentence to six months in jail, with an additional six months of house arrest and four years’ probation, the Patriot-News reported.
But he appealed that judgment, stating that the judge had “wrongly discounted” his defense that he was involuntarily intoxicated on Ambien and that he had an adverse reaction to the drug.
The state Supreme Court found that county court Judge Michael A. George allowed Harrington to testify on his behalf where he admitted that he sometimes took more Ambien than prescribed.
Supreme Court Judge David N. Wecht noted that George listened to testimony from defense expert on the phenomenon known as “sleep driving,” but didn’t find the evidence was sufficient enough to allow the involuntary
This isn’t the first DUI resulting from the use of Ambien, which the FDA classifies as a sedative-hypnotic. Last summer, Kerry Kennedy, JFK’s niece, was involved in an intoxicated driving accident where she crashed her Lexus into a tractor-trailer.
A subsequent blood test showed that she also had zolpiden in her system at the time of the arrest. Kennedy’s case however differs from Harrington’s in the respect that Kennedy did not have any drinks prior her accident.
Kennedy was able to beat the intoxicated driving charge, because she has not under the influence of any other substances unlike Harrington.
Sleep-driving is a phenomenon that the FDA identified back in 2007 after individual who took one of the various available sleep aids reported walking, driving and eating in their sleep. It has become such an issue that the FDA recently reduced the recommended dosage amount for Ambien patients.