Woman who took an Ambien, then crashed her car, is acquitted

ALBANY, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon woman who crashed her car after taking a sleeping pill was acquitted of driving under the influence and reckless driving.

Linn County Circuit Court Judge Carol Bispham said Wednesday the prosecution couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mandylee Kenney wasn't sleep driving — a possible side effect of Ambien, according to the Federal Drug Administration.

The 29-year-old Turner woman declined a diversion program to go to trial because she felt she wasn't guilty for the February 2012 crash, the Albany Democrat-Herald reported.

"You tell the truth, you should receive justice — the right kind of justice," she told the newspaper.

Kenney, a mother of three who was going through a divorce, said she took the sleeping pill before bed and woke up in her car in a ditch.

Her mother testified that Kenney had taken her prescribed dose of Ambien the previous night and was visibly intoxicated. Meanwhile, her niece told the judge she was awakened by a noise at midnight and found Kenney on the floor, jamming her feet into the niece's shoes, which were two sizes too small.

Kenney was wearing her pajamas and her niece's shoes when she crashed.

Prosecutor Michael Wynhausen said Kenney's comments to law enforcement officers, including a statement that she thought she was safe to drive, were evidence of her guilt.

"The defendant was aware of what she was doing," Wynhausen said.

Defense lawyer Kent Hickam argued new case law in Oregon means the prosecution has to prove a defendant is actually conscious.

He said his client was in a dream-like state when she told the deputies she was going to Crawfordsville to pick up a friend. She had no connections to the unincorporated community and didn't know it existed.

"There are going to be very few cases in which an acquittal should occur," Hickam said.

In January, the FDA required drugmakers of Ambien and similar sleeping pills to lower the doses of their medications, based on studies showing that the drugs remain in the bloodstream at levels high enough to interfere with driving.

Information from: Albany Democrat-Herald.

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