DUI Conviction Reversed to Allow Napping Defense

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According to KGW Portland, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed a DUI conviction against James Newman stating that the trial court had erroneously barred Mr. Newman from presenting evidence that he was “sleep driving.”

Mr. Newman has history of sleep walking, and he wanted to present evidence that he unconsciously drove his vehicle on the evening in question. This creates an interesting defense for a crime that does not require a culpable mental state.

The actual opinion points out that one has to engage in some sort of voluntary action in order to be held criminally liable for a crime. Which is totally actus reus right?! But the opinion never mentions those words, so I guess law school really was pointless.

Anyway, the opinion brings up some an interesting questions. Can you be so drunk that you aren’t capable of making voluntary acts? I’m going to say yes since that can explain away at least half of my most embarrassing moments . . . and a third of law school . . .

In response to the  opinion, Bruce McCain, whose opinion is important I guess because . . . he . . . is an attorney? , says “Every criminal defense lawyer must be salivating over this as a potential defense.” Yeah, Bruce 1) we are all feral dogs, so you totally got the salivating part right and 2) it’s going to be super easy to prove to a jury that a client was actually asleep while he or she was driving their god damn car around.

Kathy Stromvig, an anti-DUI advocate, said the ruling “puts us back to the early 80’s.” While it is understandable that she would be upset since she’s not an attorney and she did lose her brother to drunk driving, the statement seems just a tad fatalistic. First of all, someone needs to explain to the general population about the difference between being able to claim something and being able to prove something. She must have a lot of faith in us salivating and slightly rabid defense attorneys, because she seems to think everyone is going to totally win with defense. Second, the eighties were awesome so she’s definitely not going to get support for her cause with that kind of threat.

Who wouldn’t want to go back and see the Goonies for the first time again, or to experience Denzel Washington going on his first of what would be a long career of rampages.

Bruce McCain chimes in at the end of this article.* I assume because he correctly felt that threats of returning to the 80’s just aren’t scary enough.  He questioned “where does it stop . . . sleep rape, sleep robbery, sleep murder.” For one thing, sleep walking would be considered a defense to these crimes in some jurisdictions. I mean really, Bruce, are you saying that you should be able to prosecute people for crimes that happened when they were sleeping?! For another, the slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy. But I’m sure criminal law isn’t his really calling. Which totally makes him the best person to interview for this article.*


* Side Note: Who wrote this thing (article seems like too generous of a term)? Did you actually just say “It makes Kathy Stromving’s blood boil”? In a news article? Really?

(photo: Full length portrait of a young man in pajamas sleepwalking on a rope isolated on white background)

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