Skip to main content

Huffing Dust-Off isn't enough for DWI, Minnesota Supreme Court rules

The ruling overturns a woman's DWI convictions.

The Minnesota Supreme Court's latest ruling could force lawmakers to take another look at the state's DWI laws, and possibly rewrite them altogether.

On Wednesday, the state's highest court reversed the DWI convictions of a woman named Chantel Lynn Carson, who was arrested on three separate occasions (twice in late 2014, and once in 2015) for driving while high on Dust-Off.

The compressed air cans are typically used to blow dirt out of computer keyboards, but people often huff the fumes to get high, thanks to a key ingredient called difluoroethane (DFE).

In its 10-page ruling, the Minnesota Supreme Court said they threw out Carson's convictions because that chemical – DFE – is "not listed as a hazardous substance" under the state laws that cover impaired driving.

"The statutory language plainly demonstrates that the types of hazardous substances that can give rise to a driving-while-impaired conviction are limited to those substances specifically listed" in the law, the majority opinion reads. 

In other words, DFE isn't on that "list," so it can't technically count as grounds for a DWI conviction.

The process by which the judges arrived at this conclusion included a lot of hair-splitting over the language of the statutes (including what it means to "to be listed"). 

It also involved looking at "dictionary definitions to determine the plain meaning of words," and in the end, the court found that "a driver dangerously intoxicated by DFE is not criminally liable under the plain language of the current DWI statutes."

So what happens next?

The ruling seems to put the ball back in the state Legislature's court, as that's who is responsible for writing the DWI laws – and leaving DFE out of them – in the first place.

"If the Legislature had wanted to criminalize the operation of a motor vehicle while knowingly under the influence of any substance" that can cause impaired driving, the court states, "it knew how to do so and could have done so explicitly" by using more specific terminology.

But at least one of the judges disagreed, and sided with the state of Minnesota against Carson. 

Writing the dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Anne McKeig argued the wording of the law actually does leave room for DFE to be considered one of those "hazardous substances."

"Under the court’s interpretation of the statute, Minnesotans may inhale Dust-Off and then drive at their pleasure while endangering their fellow citizens," McKeig said. "This impunity cannot be what the Legislature intended."

Next Up


Wild flip the script, dominate Blackhawks

Ryan Hartman scored twice to earn the first game of a back-to-back.

Hopkins Basketball

Hopkins suffers rare loss to No. 1 ranked Sidwell Friends

The Royals held their own in a battle of the nation's best.

argue-wertman booking photos

Charges: 2 teens responsible for violent carjacking spree across Twin Cities

They face a combined 31 felony counts, all tied to carjackings and related crimes.

rep nolan west mn house

MN rep. says he was 'assaulted' at activist group's public meeting

The Republican said a man grabbed his arms and yanked him from the room.

Screen Shot 2022-01-20 at 12.56.52 PM

What were the 'bizarre things' seen in Minnesota's sky?

The mysterious streaks were not UFOs and they weren't pieces of an asteroid.

icicles, freezing weather, cold weather

Booming noises in the night could be frost quakes

The loud sounds are most likely to happen during the middle of the night.

coronavirus, coronavirus test, covid-19

Free COVID testing site to open in St. Paul for 3 weeks

The federal testing site comes as demand for testing remains high.

Reyel Simmons photo 1 - complaint - crop

MN TikToker accused of faking federal agent life pleads guilty

He told his 10,000 followers he was a Homeland Security agent — authorities say it was a lie.


Report: Vikings request second interview with 2 GM candidates

Ryan Poles of the Chiefs and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Browns.

Amaya Battle

Hopkins takes on No. 1 team in the country on ESPNU Friday

The game will feature a pair of top recruits in the Class of 2022.

st. paul federation of educators - teachers

Educators in Minneapolis, St. Paul could strike amid contract negotiations

Teachers and support staff are demanding smaller class sizes, mental health support and better pay.


Minnesota Supreme Court rules on rights for those suspected of DWIs

The court ruled individuals do not have a right to legal counsel before deciding to comply with a blood test if the police have a warrant.

Livestreaming soon: The Minnesota Supreme Court

It'll start with a GOP lawsuit against Gov. Dayton.

court gavel

MN Supreme Court rules in favor of employment protections for unpaid interns, students

The case stemmed from a St. Mary's University doctoral student's experience at a practicum.

State Supreme Court rules that schools must report campaign spending

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Friday that school districts need to be more accountable in reporting campaign spending. The ruling stems from a 2010 complaint filed against the St. Louis County School District, which alleged district leaders and school board members violated state campaign laws by using public funds to promote the passage of a school building bond referendum -- and not reporting it to the state as campaign spending.

polymet mining

Environmentalists, PolyMet both claim victory after Supreme Court ruling

Both sides are cheering after the Supreme Court issued a ruling related to the proposed mine in northeastern Minnesota.