A motorist can be charged and convicted of driving under the influence for being in control of a vehicle after inhaling aerosol propellants, the Montana Supreme Court has ruled.
The 5-0 decision this week rejected a Butte man’s efforts to have a case against him dismissed.
Taylor Nelson Pinder was charged with felony DUI after a toxicology report indicated he was under the influence of difluoroethane – an ingredient in aerosol dust remover and other products – when he crashed his car into a utility pole in February 2013.
He had three previous DUI convictions, making the fourth charge a felony, court records said.
He argued the laws only define the word “drug” in the context of pharmacy regulation and since difluoroethane is not intended for medical use, it does not qualify as a drug.
The state Supreme Court agreed with the judge who found the plain meaning of the word drug – a substance that alters one’s perception or consciousness – applied to DUI laws.
“The context of the locations of the two uses of the term ‘drug’ in Montana law makes it clear the Legislature did not intend to apply the pharmacy definition of drug to the DUI statute,” Justice Michael Wheat wrote.
The ruling also notes the purpose of the DUI statutes is to protect public safety by punishing individuals who cause their ability to safely operate a vehicle to be diminished.
“We do not think the Legislature intended to limit the scope of the DUI statutes by applying it only to drivers who may have diminished their driving ability by ingesting a substance regulated by pharmacists,” the ruling said.
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