'Sleep driving' defense gets DUII tossed

'Sleep driving' defense gets DUII tossed

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by KGW reporter Mike Benner

Bio | Email | Follow: @MikeBennerKGW

kgw.com

Posted on June 3, 2013 at 6:43 AM

Updated Monday, Jun 3 at 6:43 AM

PORTLAND -- The Oregon Supreme Court tossed out a Portland man's drunk driving conviction.  The ruling allows him to use a sleep driving defense.

In 2008, James Newman was driving with a blood alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit.  Newman went to jail and then to court.  Newman's attorney argued that he was sleep driving.  The judge refused to hear it and convicted Newman.  The Oregon Supreme Court tossed out the conviction.

"Every criminal defense lawyer must be salivating over this as a potential defense," said Bruce McCain.

The attorney and former law enforcement officer is baffled by the high court's ruling.

"The Supreme Court said that this defendant and anyone in the future can put on evidence showing their criminal conduct was done involuntarily and unconsciously."

Newman has a history of sleep walking which explains the sleep driving defense.  It makes Kathy Stromvig's blood boil.  She lost a brother to drunk driving.

"This endangers the general public and puts us back to the early 80's in Oregon law," said Stromvig.  "It's time people are held accountable and not use excuses for their behavior."

Newman's case is headed back to the circuit court. 

"Where does it stop ... sleep rape, sleep robbery, sleep murder," said McCain.

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