A man wakes up after a rather vivid dream about fighting off a group of attackers to find that his wife has been strangled to death. The man has a history of sleepwalking, but he refuses to believe he could have done such a thing. After an investigation by the police and a trial, it is determined that the man did commit the crime but he was not responsible for it. He received no prison time, but he will live with the guilt for the rest of his life.
The above is a true story about a couple from England. In 2014, a similar story played out in Boston where a man murdered his girlfriend in a most gruesome manner but his defense counsel insisted it was due to sleepwalking. As with the man from England, the man from Boston was declared innocent.
Is Sleepwalking a Real Defense?
Sleepwalking has been used repeatedly as a defense for a variety of crimes, but the defendant was generally found innocent in cases where sleepwalking could be proven. When we sleepwalk, the part of our brain that makes important decisions shuts down. Emotionally, we are able to act on the situations we are dreaming, but our mind is unable to tell right from wrong. In these instances with sleepwalkers, terrible things can and have happened.
But is sleepwalking a real defense. As we have shown, sleepwalking can be a legitimate defense for a variety of crimes. People who have been accused of murder have been found innocent because of sleepwalking. In most of the cases where sleepwalking is a successful defense, the defendant is ordered to seek treatment.
What is Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking occurs in adults and children, but it is more common among the younger population. Sleepwalking can be triggered by sleep deprivation or the use of sleep medicine, but the core cause of sleepwalking is unknown.
People can execute a series of complicated motions and actions while sleepwalking, and in most cases the sleepwalker is acting out what they are experiencing in their dream. Contrary to popular belief, it is important to wake up a sleepwalker as soon as possible to prevent them from doing any damage to themselves or others.
Can You Commit a Crime While Sleepwalking?
The crime that gets the most publicity when it is committed by a sleepwalker is murder. However, depending on what the sleepwalker is dreaming about, a range of crimes are possible. While sleepwalking, crimes such as sexual assault, vandalism, and theft are possible.
If you are being charged with a crime but do not remember committing the crime, then you need to contact a Staten Island lawyer immediately. If you have a history of sleepwalking, then you might have ventured out unknowingly and did something you never intended to do. A good and experienced lawyer will know how to properly use sleepwalking as a defense and make sure that you are not convicted of a crime for which you are not responsible.