Highland Park 'huffing' case could land in state Supreme Court

  • Carly Rousso walks into the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan before her trial in May.

      Carly Rousso walks into the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan before her trial in May. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Updated 6/12/2014 5:53 PM

The Illinois Supreme Court could be tasked later this year with deciding whether the Highland Park woman found guilty of being high when she killed a little girl was properly charged in the case.

On Thursday, defense attorney Douglas Zeit filed a motion to dismiss the case against Carly Rousso, 19, on the grounds the four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound filed against her were unconstitutional.


Lake County Judge James Booras found Rousso guilty of the charges last month for inhaling computer dust cleaner moments before she struck and killed Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento, 5, of Highland Park, with her family-owned Lexus on Sept. 3, 2012.

However, Zeit has long argued that because difluoroethane -- the chemical found in the dust cleaner -- is not on any state list of intoxicating compounds, the Lake County State's Attorney's Office should not have charged Rousso with aggravated DUI.

If Lake County Judge James Booras agrees and grants a motion to dismiss at a July 3 hearing, the constitutionality question of the law regarding intoxicating compounds would go to the state Supreme Court for a ruling, Assistant State's Attorney Michael Ori said.

The Supreme Court could agree with Booras, or the justices could reverse Booras' decision, Ori said.

"It would have to because people from all over the state have been charged under this same exact statute," Ori said. "So, if (Booras) finds it unconstitutional for people in Lake County to be charged this way, the Supreme Court would need to decide whether the law is constitutional or not for the whole state."

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If Booras rules the law is constitutional, the case would move to sentencing, Ori explained.

Authorities said Rousso was "huffing" computer dust cleaner while driving east in the 700 block of Central Avenue. She swerved across four lanes of traffic and hit Jaclyn, her mother, and two brothers. The girl's mother and brothers were injured, but survived.

In a video played at her trial, Rousso told police she ingested the cleaner just before the crash.

Rousso remains free on bail, but has relinquished her passport to the court.

She faces 3 to 14 years in prison on aggravated DUI. The law states that a person found guilty of the crime can be sentenced to probation if "extraordinary circumstances" exist.

Before her trial started, Rousso pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and could be sentenced two to five years on that charge. She also could receive probation.

Zeit previously filed similar constitutionality challenges in the case. He pulled the first motion off the table because, he said, they wanted to go to trial. Zeit filed a second, similar challenge just before closing arguments of the trial. But Booras ruled the trial was to deal with the charges against Rousso, not the constitutionality of the law.

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