Lower Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman has cleared Ki Yong O, an Andover, Massachusetts resident, of motor vehicle homicide charges because taking the prescription drug may have caused him to engage in sleep-driving when he struck and killed a 43-year-old Methuen men last year.
In June 2006, O struck and killed Anthony Raucci, who was changing a tire on his car while his wife and son sat nearby on Interstate 93 in Tewskbury. Raucci’s wife and son witnessed the fatal crash. O had taken Ambien before getting behind the wheel of his car. He said he doesn’t remember striking Raucci.
Witnesses say they saw O driving erratically down Interstate 93 when his car struck Raucci, who died immediately. Although prosecutors argued that O knew he took Ambien and drove his car anyway, O’s defense team claimed that sleep-driving is a rare side effect of taking Ambien.
Judge Fishman says that he didn’t think O knew that sleep-driving was a potential side effect of taking Ambien and he therefore could not reach the conclusion that O committed voluntary motor vehicle homicide. O was also found not guilty of leaving the scene or committing property damage.
Not long after the fatal accident occurred, the Food and Drug Administration issued an order that the label on Ambien be changed to include its potential side effects. Ambien is used to treat insomnia.
Somnambulism is the term given to complex activities that can occur while a person is sleeping. A person can be asleep and still drive, have sex, cook, and eat food. Upon waking up, a person who was sleep-driving will have no recollection of engaging in any of these activities.
Lawyer who took sleeping pill cleared of vehicle homicide, Eagle Tribune, December 1, 2007
Judge clears ‘sleep driving’ Andover man of motor vehicle homicide, Boston Herald, December 1, 2007
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Motor vehicle homicide is a serious offense in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts criminal defense law firm of Altman & Altman LLP represents clients that are accused of committing felony and misdemeanor crimes throughout Massachusetts. We have successfully represented many clients in motor vehicle homicide cases. Please contact Altman & Altman LLP right away to receive your free case evaluation.