Oregon Supreme Court allows man to use 'sleep driving' defense in DUI case

Published: Wednesday, June 5 2013 8:10 a.m. MDT


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The Oregon Supreme Court has overturned a man's DUI conviction from 2008 — saying he should be allowed to argue that he was asleep at the time — and therefore not responsible for getting behind the wheel of his car.

Mike Benner of KGW 8 in Portland, Ore., reports that in 2008, James Newman was arrested with a blood alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit. At trial, Newman's attorney argued that his client, who has a history of sleepwalking, was asleep at the time. But the judge refused to allow the defense, and subsequently convicted Newman after waiving his right to a jury trial.

The Oregonian's Aimee Green reports that Multnomah County Circuit Judge Marshall Amiton wouldn't allow the defense because Oregon's DUI law doesn't require the prosecution to prove Newman voluntarily drove drunk, only that he did indeed drive drunk.

Green reports that at the time of his arrest, Newman's BAC was .15 and his conviction was a felony because he had twice before been convicted of DUI. Green also reports that Newman was prepared to have a doctor testify that sleepwalking is an unconscious behavior and that Newman wasn't responsible for his actions.

The case has now been sent back to circuit courts.

Editor's Note: The original version of this story posted on June 5, 2013, failed to properly attribute all source materials, which violates our editorial policies. The story was revised on Oct. 8, 2013 to link to original source material.

Read more about the unusual defense on KGW 8.

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