More than 1.4 million people are arrested every year for a DUI first offense, but how often do you hear of a drunk-driving nun? A judge convicted a Philadelphia nun of a DUI on Wednesday, rejecting her claim of “sleep driving” as a result of taking Ambien.
Sister Kimberly A. Miller testified that she had mixed a sleeping pill with a glass of altar wine, causing her to have no recollection of the car crash that led to her arrest back in November in New Jersey’s Washington Township. Miller was pulled over by police after witnesses saw her drive into a Meineke auto repair shop and flee the scene.
Police alleged that she was clearly intoxicated and was staggering as she struggled to get out of her car. Officers reported finding a half-empty bottle of wine in the back of her sedan, which Miller claims was given to her by the bookstore owner to take back to the convent. A breathalyzer test found the nun’s blood-alcohol level to be .16, which is twice the legal limit in New Jersey.
Sister Miller’s lawyers argued during the six-hour trial that their client suffered an adverse reaction after taking the sedative Ambien. Miller’s defense insisted that she has a history of sleepwalking and that the medication was intended to help with her insomnia and chronic arthritis.
However, Miller did admit to consuming “two small glasses of wine” at a book fair in Haverford before going to bed at St. Veronica’s, the North Philadelphia convent in which she has lived for 17 years. Miller claims to have no memory of ever driving her car that night, but upon waking up, found herself handcuffed at the Washington Township police station 20 miles away from the convent.
Judge Whitcraft found the nun’s testimony “less than credible.” He commented, “She testified that this wine was placed in the back seat by two sober, reasonable people.”
Whitcraft noted, however, that leaving an opened container in the back seat would be a violation of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey state laws. Furthermore, he argues that a reasonable person would be aware of the risks that come with mixing a sleep aid with alcohol.
The judge has suspended Miller’s license for 90 days and fined her $257 plus in fees.
The nun also held a teaching position at Little Flower High School in Philadelphia and will remain on administrative leave for an indefinite period of time.
There’s no word, though, yet on how many Hail Marys Miller will need to say.