Fatal DUI Charges May Be Dropped on Technicality

Tags: Criminal Defense, DUI

There are many things about which Alabama DUI law may be abundantly clear.


There are equally as many things that may be somewhat ambiguous and open to interpretation. Sometimes, the difference between the two doesn’t become clear until you’ve had an experienced DUI defense lawyer review the unique circumstances of your case.

A perfect example of this is playing out in the criminal courts of Illinois, where a 19-year-old driver facing charges in a fatal DUI case may end up having the charges dropped altogether.

According to media reports, the crash happened on Labor Day 2012. Authorities accuse the teen of consumption of a substance called difluoroethane by inhaling or “huffing.” The compound is a colorless gas that is typically used as a refrigerant. It’s found in a lot of gas dusters and a number of consumer aerosol products.

Investigators said the teen huffed the product for an intoxicating effect just before the vehicle she was driving crossed several lanes of traffic, careened up onto a sidewalk and struck a woman who was walking with her three children. The woman and one of her son’s suffered serious injuries. The woman’s daughter, 5, was killed.

Lab tests reportedly later found the chemical compound in her blood.

But the question is now whether difluoroethane is an intoxicant per Illinois law. It is upon this basis that her DUI defense lawyer is challenging the constitutionality of the charges. At the moment, she is facing one count of reckless homicide and four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of an aggravated compound. She is facing a total of 14 years behind bars if convicted. (Those charges differ slightly from what a person in the same scenario in Alabama would face. All DUI laws vary somewhat from state-to-state.)

The defense motion to have the charges dismissed refers to an Illinois statute known as the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act. That law defines intoxicating compounds and specifically names some 15 substances to be considered. Under that law, the substance the defendant is accused of using is not listed. Absent that, the defense lawyers say, a dismissal of the charges is in order.

Prosecutors concede the request could, at the very least, serve to significantly delay the trial. If the judge grants the motion, the defendant’s possible prison time could be significantly reduced.

It’s not likely that such a request would be successful in Alabama due to the language of Alabama Code 32-5A-191. The law says that in addition to excessive consumption of alcohol or a controlled substance, a person can be considered under the influence if he or she has consumed “any substance which impairs the mental or physical faculties of a person to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving.”

The law doesn’t list every single possible substance, and this broad approach was likely a strategic move on behalf of legislators.

However, that doesn’t means you are necessarily out of options. You simply never know when some aspect of your case might result in a reduction or dismissal of charges.


Additional Resources:
Fatal ‘huffing’ DUI charges to be dropped? Sept. 25, 2013, By Katherine Cavazini, HLNTV.com
More Blog Entries:
Alabama Marijuana DUI Will Be Difficult for Cops to Prove, Sept. 2, 2013, Birmingham DUI Defense Attorney Blog

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