MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the impaired driving convictions of a woman who was found slumped over in her car on three occasions after allegedly inhaling from a can of dust remover.
The chemical in the can — 1,1-Difluoroethane, or DFE — was found in the woman’s system, and she was convicted of three counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a hazardous substance. But the Supreme Court overturned her convictions because DFE is not listed as a hazardous substance under Minnesota’s driving-while-impaired statute.
“We acknowledge that based on our holding today, a driver dangerously intoxicated by DFE is not criminally liable under the plain language of the current DWI statutes,” Justice Natalie Hudson wrote for the majority. She said it’s up to the Legislature to refine the law.
DFE is found in refrigerated-based propellant cans, commonly sold under the brand name Dust-Off, that are used to clean computer keyboards and electronics. Each time the woman, Chantel Lynn Carson, was found in her car — slumped over, passed out, slurring and with bloodshot eyes — she had one or more of those cans with her.
In arguing that her convictions should be upheld, the state said that while Minnesota’s occupational safety and health rule on hazardous substances does not specifically list DFE, the rule also says it “does not include all hazardous substances and will not always be current.”
The rule also includes a list of “characteristics” that would make a substance hazardous. The state argued that DFE has many of those characteristics and falls into that category.
But the Supreme Court disagreed, saying the statute plainly says that the types of hazardous substances that can lead to a driving-while-impaired conviction are limited to those specifically listed.
Justice Anne McKeig dissented, saying DFE has the characteristics of a hazardous substance even though it’s not mentioned by name.
“Under the court’s interpretation of the statute, Minnesotans may inhale Dust-Off and then drive at their pleasure while endangering their fellow citizens,” she wrote. “This impunity cannot be what the Legislature intended.”
Carson’s attorney, Lydia Villalva Lijo, said in a statement that the decision was great news for her client.
“She continues to work hard every day to contribute in positive ways to her community and to keep her life on track,” she said. “It has been a hard road and we should encourage her progress.”
MARATHON, Fla. – Monroe County sheriff’s deputies arrested an intoxicated Marathon woman after she led them on a chase up U.S. Highway 1.
The deputies were called to a McDonald’s at 6:30 a.m. Sunday and witnessed Janice Hastings, 60, blocking traffic in the restaurant’s drive-thru lane.
After a customer and manager asked her to move, Hastings drove her car across the lot and parked across several spots.
When one deputy approached Hastings’ car, the manager told him he believed the woman was intoxicated.
As the deputy attempted to speak with Hastings, she hit the gas, jumped a curb and began driving north on U.S. 1.
Driving at speeds up to 45 mph, Hastings refused to stop with three deputies in pursuit. Another deputy was able to puncture all four of her tires after deploying spikes at an intersection.
However, Hastings kept driving with four flat tires and began fishtailing and endangering other drivers.
The car eventually came to a stop at mile marker 57.2, but Hastings refused to open her car door or window, shouting at officers that she was not drunk.
A passerby told deputies she had seen Hastings leaving J.J.’s Doghouse bar and driving erratically, running through a traffic light and hitting the median several times. The woman made the first call to 911 about Hastings’ driving.
Deputies said Hastings refused to take a sobriety test on the roadside or at the detention center after she was placed under arrest.
While in the detention center, Hastings also bit a deputy when he attempted to remove gum that she refused to spit out of her mouth.
Hastings was arrested on charges of fleeing and eluding police, reckless driving, DUI, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence.