Judge Keough Speaks Out About DWI

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough says he takes responsibility for actions leading up to a September car accident and has plead guilty to a Class B Misdemeanor DWI charge.

“On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, Mr. Mark Keough plead guilty to the charge of Driving While Intoxicated First Offense, a Class B Misdemeanor,” said Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Holley in a statement. “Mr. Keough received a conviction for the offense, a 90 days driver’s license suspension, and the maximum $2,000 fine. He was also required to pay court costs.”

The charge stems from an accident Keough was involved in back in September, where he sped through a red light on Grogan’s Mill and ultimately lost control, hitting a Precinct 5 Constable’s Chevy Tahoe and then another vehicle. Keough was taken to the hospital with a broken pelvis, where blood testing revealed he had 155.5 ng/mL of zolpidem (Ambien), 1.5 ng/ML of fentanyl, and 65 ng/mL of amphetamine in his blood sample.

According to Keough, the zolpidem was the sleep aid Ambien, which he says was prescribed by his doctor. The fentanyl was revealed to have been given to Keough by the hospital soon after the accident.

No explanation has been given regarding the amphetamines, but it may be that Keough was taking Ambien at night to help him sleep, and then taking an amphetamine in the morning as a stimulant.

Shortly after pleading guilty to the charges, Keough released a video stating that he took responsibility and agreed to follow all the prescriptions of the court. Keough noted that no alcohol was involved in the incident, but that the DWI was due to a, “doctor prescribed sleep aid called Ambien.”

“What I did not realize at the time is that this can have lingering effects,” said Keough. “But the fact of the matter is that my motivation or how I did it or where I got it from is not a defense for the prosecution. I got up, I went to work just as usual, but I didn’t expect it to end this way. I take responsibility for that because you know what? They did find it in my bloodstream.”

Keough says the whole thing has been a learning experience and he hopes that others considering sleep aids will take note:

“This has been a learning experience for me and I hope that it helps you as you think about taking these sleep aids that there could be lingering effects, and you don’t want that.”

Exact data on the number of people using prescription sleep aids is hard to find, but CDC studies have revealed it may be more than 4 percent of the U.S. population. According to the FDA, “data show that the morning after use, many people who take products containing extended-release zolpidem have drug levels that are high enough to impair driving and other activities.” The FDA also found that, “some medicines containing the immediate-release form of zolpidem can impair driving and other activities the next morning.”

“All insomnia drugs are potent medications, and they must be used carefully,” said Russell Katz, M.D., former director of FDA’s Division of Neurology Products.

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