Monday, April 04, 2011

DUI Appeal - Nitrous Oxide Tank is Proof Beyond Reasonable Doubt

In re Eddie, Not Reported in Cal.Rptr.3d, 2011 WL 1196046 (Cal.App. 4 Dist.), involved an appeal of a juvenile court finding that Eddie had committed a DUI while under the influence of nitrous oxide. Eddie appealed the courts findings that (1) he inhaled nitrous oxide gas; (2) nitrous oxide gas is a drug within the meaning of Vehicle Code sections 23153, subdivision (a) and 312; and (3) he was under the influence of a drug at the time he drove the vehicle.
The record revealed that the defendant had purchased a tank from craigslist, with labels on the tank suggesting that it was filled with Nitrous Oxide. Using balloons, Eddie, Kevin, and two other passengers, Dylan H. and C., inhaled gas from the tank. Dylan testified that they inhaled the nitrous oxide gas because they were hoping “to get a little high.” Kevin testified it was “a first-time experience” for him and that he “didn't really get a high feeling.” (Eddie later told Huntington Beach Police Officer Richard Backstrom that he had not felt the effects of the nitrous oxide gas and was disappointed in the experience.)The contents of the tank itself were never tested, but the appeals court found that it was proved that the tank was filled with nitrous oxide merely because it was labeled as such.
Additionally, Eddie contended that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was under the influence of nitrous while driving. the appeals court made short shrift of that argument as well:

Eddie's admitted inhalation of nitrous oxide gas shortly before his erratic and high speed driving constitutes substantial evidence he was under the influence of a drug within the meaning of section 23153, subdivision (a).
* * * *
"Eddie argues he did not feel a high from the gas he inhaled. Officer Backstrom testified, however, that “[m]ost people that are under the influence, whether it be alcohol or drugs, whatever the case is, they often times still believe that they are in control of themselves and often admit that they don't have symptoms.”

NOTE: This case falls well below the type of evidence that would generally be required in order to prove that a particular compound is "X". the argument that the label proves BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT that the tank contained what was purported to be on the label is fraught with danger, rendering this decision unreasonable from a scientific point of view.
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