If you know almost nothing at all about drunk driving or Canadian drunk driving laws, the number one thing you need to realize is that drunk driving is always a choice. You choose to drink alcohol and get behind the wheel, and when you make that choice and you kill or injure someone, it’s not an accident: it’s because you mixed alcohol and driving.
But what if you didn’t drink and drive but ended up drunk behind the wheel anyway, and were arrested for drunk driving? That’s the defense one offender in Hamilton, Ontario used successfully. It’s all due to parasomnia.
Parasomnia is a disruptive sleep disorder that can happen during REM sleep. When someone is in the throes of parasomnia, he or she may have nightmares, sleepwalking, or in this case, sleep driving. This offender was found driving erratically on a major parkway when she was stopped by police, and they made a note of how she was staring straight ahead and fell out of the car when asked to exit.
In her defense she told the court that the last thing she remembered was going to sleep that night, then waking up in a holding cell. She did not recall drinking alcohol and she couldn’t remember getting behind the wheel of her car. Surprisingly the court ruled in her favour, and she was found not criminally responsible for drunk driving.
In her case the judge felt her situation was legitimate and that she was telling the truth about how she got behind the wheel of her car, but it was definitely a unique situation and a unique defense that wouldn’t work for other Canadian drunk driving offenders.