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Huffing Case Triggers Review of DUI Laws in Illinois Courtroom

Published on 11/15/2013 -

By

An Illinois DUI case involving a defendant who inhaled a computer cleaning product before driving has raised novel questions about what constitutes intoxicated driving, according to a recent report from the Chicago Tribune.

And the issues currently being debated in Illinois could have widespread repercussions and courts try to determine what illegal drugs should be banned in drivers’ systems.

Woman Who Inhaled Cleaning Products at Center of DUI Debate

According to sources, the novel case centers on the actions of Carly Rousso, a woman from Highland Park, Illinois, who was charged last year with “huffing” a product used to clean computers before running her car into a 5-year-old girl. The girl tragically died as a result of the felony DUI accident.

And while the story certainly offers a harrowing narrative, Rousso’s DUI defense attorney has raised concerns that extending the definition of intoxication too far could threaten the constitutionality of DUI statutes.

When a state legislature enacts a law, that law must be specific enough to place potential defendants on notice about what behavior, exactly, is illegal. On occasion, when a law is drafted in an excessively vague manner, courts will dismiss the law as unconstitutional.

During a recent court hearing, Rousso’s defense attorney, Douglas Zeit, said the aggravated DUI charges against Rousso were unconstitutional because the statute is “implicitly vague and that “no person of ordinary intelligence could understand the catchall phrase used in the statute.”

Specifically, the statute simply bans “driving under the influence” of intoxicating substances, and the active ingredient in Rousso’s inhalant of choice is difluoroethane, which is not identified as an intoxicating substance under Illinois law.

DUI Attorneys Debate Meaning of Intoxicating Substance

In response to the DUI defense attorney’s argument that the statute is too vague, the prosecuting attorney made a sound response, claiming that it would be impossible to list every possible substance that can cause a high.

Indeed, the number of substances that can dangerously alter a person’s mental state is prohibitively long, and lawmakers would have an impossible time keeping up with the long list of new synthetic drugs that are created every year.

And the defense attorney’s argument does could the fact that the women killed a young girl after losing control of her vehicle on Labor Day 2012.

The prosecuting attorney told the court that the defendant ingested a substance that “impaired her,” and that she “intended to impair herself,” which, he believed, should constitute enough proof that she was responsible for driving under the influence.

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