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Posted: Monday, 24 February 2014 2:04PM

Kerry Kennedy Drugged-Driving Trial Begins in New York

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Kerry Kennedy is in court Monday for a drugged-driving trial hailing from a 2012 highway crash near her home outside New York City.

Kennedy, 43, says she mistakenly took the prescription sleep-aid Ambien instead of her thyroid medication, causing her to fall asleep at the wheel. The niece of the late President John F. Kennedy hit a tractor-trailer and continued to drive to the next exit, where she failed a sobriety test.

The misdemeanor case is being heard in state Supreme Court, where a jury will decide whether Kennedy took the drug accidentally. Her defense attorney argues that her outfit at the time of the crash -- gym clothes -- supports the claim because no one would intentionally take a sleep aid before working out.

Ambien's label warns about the risk of "sleep-driving," and says the drug "can impair alertness and motor coordination."

"Patients should be cautioned against engaging in hazardous occupations requiring complete mental alertness or motor coordination such as operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle after ingesting the drug," the label reads.

Kennedy is not the first person to cite Ambien in a legal defense. In 2006, her cousin Patrick Kennedy pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of Ambien and the motion-sickness drug Phenergan after crashing his car near the U.S. Capitol. The drug has also been raised in cases of domestic violence and rape.

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