Woman Who Inhaled Chemical Has DWI Convictions Overturned by MN Supreme Court

A Minnesota woman can rest easy after the state’s supreme court recently reversed her convictions finding that she had driven while impaired.

According to a report from CBS Minnesota, the woman had been found slumped over in her car on several occasions after inhaling a canned chemical known as difluoroethane (DFE). She was charged and convicted but had a strong case for appeal because the chemical is not currently considered a hazardous substance under the state’s statute covering impaired driving.

Difluoroethane is typically contained within propellant cans and commonly used to clean electronics under the brand name Dust-Off.

Writing for the court’s majority, Justice Natalie Hudson noted, “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.”

Arguing against overturning the convictions, the state said that while the statute didn’t specifically refer to difluoroethane, the statute nonetheless refers to general characteristics of what should be considered hazardous substances. The statute also apparently notes that it will not always be up to date to include everything. However, the argument was not enough to convince a majority on the court.

Dissenting in the case, Justice Anne McKeig wrote, “Under the court’s interpretation of the statute, Minnesotans may inhale Dust-Off and then drive at their pleasure while endangering their fellow citizens.” Meanwhile, the woman’s attorney applauded the ruling, noting her client had worked to get her life back on track and was contributing in positive ways to her community.

The Minnesota state supreme court has had a busy past couple years in terms of DWI-related cases. A little over one year ago, the same court struck down the ability of authorities to administer urine tests without warrants.