Constitutionality of charges argued in fatal 2012 Highland Park huffing case
The trial for a Highland Park driver accused of huffing computer dust cleaner minutes before striking and killing a 5-year-old girl was delayed Tuesday.
Lake County Judge James K. Booras requested more time to allow attorneys to argue the constitutionality of charging Carly Rousso, 19, with aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound in the September 2012 accident.
Rousso's attorneys argue it is unconstitutional to charge her with aggravated DUI because Illinois does not specifically list the computer cleaner or its main compound, difluoroethane, as intoxicating.
However, Assistant State's Attorney Michael Ori said legislators used a "catchall" phrase when drafting the legislation to ensure defendants who intentionally become impaired and intoxicated off any substance are charged with a crime.
"What we have here is a situation where the legislature could not list every single substance that someone would ingest to become intoxicated," Ori explained. "This defendant ingested a substance ... for the sole purpose of intoxicating herself."
Rousso faces four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound and a single count of reckless homicide for her role in the accident that killed Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento.
Authorities said Rousso was "huffing" the computer dust cleaner moments before crashing a family-owned Lexus into Santos-Sacramento and her family as they walked on the 700 block of Central Avenue in Highland Park.
The girl's mother and two brothers also were injured but survived.
Rousso could spend 26 years in prison if found guilty of the most serious charges of aggravated DUI.
Defense attorney Doug Zeit filed a motion last month seeking to dismiss those charges against Rousso because the chemical has not been specifically listed as intoxicating in some states, including Illinois.
Zeit said Illinois officials have not definitively ruled on whether difluoroethane is considered an intoxicating compound. For the charge to be filed against Rousso, the chemical would need to be definitively considered intoxicating, he said.
He also said the "catchall" law in place in Illinois means a person who takes allergy medication could be charged with aggravated DUI should they be involved in an accident.
"I understand what the legislature was trying to do, but we all know the legislature doesn't always get it right," Zeit argued.
Booras was initially expected to rule on the issue Tuesday but decided he wanted more time to research the argument. To extend the hearing and give both sides more time to argue, he pushed back Rousso's trial date to Feb. 7.
However, Rousso will return to court Thursday for a quick hearing to decide whether she will be allowed to fly to Arizona to visit a sick relative.