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'Sleepwalking' Swede beats drunken driving charges

Published: 01 Nov 2010 16:27 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Nov 2010 16:27 GMT+01:00

A 51-year-old Swedish man has been acquitted of drunken driving charges after a court couldn't rule out the possibility that the man was asleep when he got behind the wheel.

There is no doubt that the man was well above the legal limit when he awoke late one evening last May in the driver's seat of his car, which had careened into a ditch in Karlskrona in southern Sweden.

According to court documents, the man had a blood alcohol level of 1.85 per mille – nearly ten times Sweden's legal limit of 0.2 per mille.

"He fell asleep around 9pm. After that, he doesn't remember anything except that his next memory is that he woke up in the ditch outside his car together with a male named Magnus," reads the Blekinge District Court's ruling.

"He had on his nightshirt, sweatpants and slippers."

He explained to officers that he was on his to replenish his supply of snus, a wet snuff tobacco product popular in Sweden.

He also claimed he didn't feel under the influence when he got in his car and that he recalled veering off into the ditch and slamming into a post.

But during subsequent interrogations, the man claimed to have no memory of initial post-accident interview, only that "he spoke with a police officer and that he was in shock and extremely intoxicated when the interview took place."

In tossing out the drunken driving charges against the man, the court cited an opinion written by the man's doctor following the accident explaining that he may have suffered from somnambulism or sleepwalking.

"Somnambulism is a well known medical phenomenon where a person can carry out complex behaviours like walking, eating and making food, driving a car and having sex without actually being awake or aware of what's happening," wrote the doctor, according to court documents.

The doctor explained that the man had previously displayed behaviour that could be interpreted as sleepwalking after having taken the same pills he took the evening of the accident.

According to the court, the man "may have been affected by somnambulism and was unaware of his actions."

As a result, wrote the court in its ruling, "It cannot be shown beyond a reasonable doubt" that the man "was aware of his actions when he drove his car" to the extent required to find him guilty of drunken driving.

The man's attorney, Christer Holmqvist, wasn’t surprised by the verdict.

"I actually expected an acquittal," he told The Local.

"But I can understand that the public might think otherwise, but when it comes to standards of evidence for a criminal conviction, all one needs is a reasonable alternative explanation [for an acquittal]."

Holmqvist said he expects the verdict will be appealed, citing recent media reports that the prosecutor in the case was unhappy with the verdict.

"I won't be surprised if it's appealed. I understand there is a certain amount of public pressure on a prosecutor to gain a conviction," he said.

The Local's attempts to reach prosecutor Malin Svensson for comment were unsuccessful.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

19:16 November 1, 2010 by Pacey
Woo Hoo! Now all of us need to get that doc and that lawyer and binge drink and drive!
21:14 November 1, 2010 by Swedesmith
Sounds like the judge was sleepwalking.
21:53 November 1, 2010 by mikewhite
In the UK, a family friend who was a qualified driving instructor was convicted of dangerous driving and temporarily lost his qualification, when he collapsed while driving due to sudden onset of illness.

It was treated by the court as a statutory offence, ie. his intention was not an issue.
23:56 November 1, 2010 by jack sprat
Sounds more like bloodyliarbulism to me.lol.

However nightware shall be my standard driving attire from now on, just in case I ever get pulled early morning after the night before.
00:09 November 2, 2010 by Da Goat
Sleep driving is more dangerous than drunk driving SO they should have hit him harder not let him off

this is a worse thing than downloading (you can't kill while downloading) I guess 4 years would be sufficient!
00:12 November 2, 2010 by eZee.se
"...and having sex without actually being awake or aware of what's happening"

If one day I get up and mini-me has taken me to Vegas, hired me a 1000 dollar a night hooker and also given her a tip... I swear I'm gonna cut it off!
01:04 November 2, 2010 by Emmaboda
Someone must paid that judge off, or the cold autumn winds from the Baltic Sea was affecting the mind of the judge, down there in Karlskrona
01:14 November 2, 2010 by IranianBoy
come on! it's possible! from the probability theory point of view.... lol
05:32 November 2, 2010 by Jarvilainennen
So, while sober, this man must be the safest driver on earh if he falls asleep at the wheel. But if he suddenly insists on stopping for some snus, might be an indication to the poor wife?

"Oh, honey, not again..!"

"I need some snus, I need some snus..."

Anyway, if he truly suffers from this condition, hide the keys to the car, a court order to give them to a neighbour or someting :)
14:53 November 2, 2010 by The.Local.Troll
So, he was drunk and taking strong drugs whilst driving... and he got away with it!!

Rubbish excuse, rubbish outcome...
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