A CHP officer who crashed into two parked cars on his way to work one day last summer pleaded no contest Tuesday to a charge related to driving under the influence.
Michael Shane Mallory, 38, pleaded to “wet reckless,” a misdemeanor charge offered as a lesser plea in DUI cases.
Mallory was commuting to Santa Maria on Aug. 8 when he crashed his 2004 Ford Explorer into the vehicles near his home in Arroyo Grande. Police responding to the crash said Mallory seemed impaired, so they conducted a field sobriety test. The test eliminated alcohol as a factor, but blood tests later determined that Mallory had taken zolpidem, a prescription sleep aid generic for the drug Ambien. Mallory, who had allegedly suffered from night terrors, had a prescription for the drug.
While he was initially charged with driving under the influence, the wet reckless plea was offered due to several mitigating factors. Since Mallory’s arrest, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring doctors to cut in half doses of Ambien and similar sleeping pills with zolpidem, saying larger doses rendered many people — particularly women — too drowsy to drive in the mornings. According to one ABC News story, researchers found that after eight hours, a 10 milligram dose of regular Ambien — the previously recommended dosage amount — resulted in 15 percent of women and 3 percent of men having zolpidem levels high enough to cause impairment the next morning, which can affect driving.
Mallory had no prior record, and no other drugs were found in his body.
“When we balanced those competing interests against each other, we thought this was a fair resolution,” said Jerret Gran, chief deputy district attorney.
With the plea, Mallory will be on probation for 18 months, and the charge will count as a prior offense for enhanced punishment if he is charged with driving under the influence again within the next 10 years.