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Chicago DUI case prompts debate over intoxication laws

Do you know what substances are considered intoxicating under the law? If you are like most people, you probably know that drugs and alcohol would fall into that category, but what if you spend an afternoon painting a small room with little ventilation and get a little light-headed? Could you be charged with driving under the influence if police stop you? If so, would that be fair?

This discussion is one that has come up in a current drunk driving case in the Chicago area. A Highland Park woman is facing aggravated DUI charges after being involved in a fatal accident. Prosecutors have argued that she huffed a computer cleaning product before getting behind the wheel, but her defense attorney says she shouldn't be facing such harsh charges because the law around intoxicating substances is unclear.

The attorney says the chemicals found in the computer cleaner that the woman allegedly inhaled are not among the intoxicating substances listed in the relevant statute. He argued that the law is too vague to be understood by the average person and called its constitutionality into question.

The prosecutor for the case argued that the law is about intent. If the woman intended to get high before she got into her car, she should be charged with aggravated DUI.

If the woman in this case is convicted, she could be sentenced to up to 26 years in prison.

When a person's freedom is at stake, it is extremely important that all factors surrounding his or her case be considered carefully. Laws should be written clearly enough so that those who could be accused of violating them are at least able to understand them. It will be interesting to see how the judge decides in this case.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Lawyer in 'huffing' case says aggravated DUI law is vague," Susan Berger, Nov. 12, 2013

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