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Lawyers: Kerry Kennedy popped Ambien, drove by mistake

Intent is one of the most important elements in any criminal case in Colorado or elsewhere. In order to be convicted of a crime, the defendant must have had criminal intent.

In DUI cases, that means the guilty party must have intended to drive even though he or she was under the influence.

However, a DUI case involving the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and the niece of John F. Kennedy demonstrates that this isn’t always a cut-and-dry issue.

Kerry Kennedy admits that she was under the influence of the powerful sleep aid Ambien when she drove her Lexus SUV erratically in July 2012 and caused a minor accident before falling asleep behind the wheel.

Kennedy was arrested and charged with drugged driving when a drug test found the sleep mediation in her blood.

In Kennedy’s trial, which began this week, her attorneys didn’t take issue with the course of events that led up to her arrest. And they admit that Kennedy was, in fact, under the influence of Ambien when she was driving that day.

Their argument is that Kennedy mistakenly popped an Ambien when she intended to take her thyroid mediation. Therefore, they say she lacked intent to drive drunk.

During the trial’s opening statements, Kennedy’s lawyer said the Ambien then “hijacked” her decision-making abilities, which is why she got behind the wheel of her car.

The prosecution argued that Kennedy should be held responsible for all of her “actions and decisions” that led to her arrest.

Ultimately, this will be an interesting case to follow. If Kennedy truly took the Ambien by mistake, should she be held responsible for her choice to drive? That will be up to a judge to decide.

Source: USA TODAY, “Kerry Kennedy's drugged-driving trial opens,” Erik Shilling, Feb. 24, 2014

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