The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that DFE is not a hazardous substance for DWIs. State v. Carson, A15-1678 (Minn. Oct. 11, 2017) (read the case here). In Minnesota, one can get a DWI without consuming alcohol, but can if under the influence of a controlled substance, with any amount of a Schedule I or II controlled substance (except marijuana), or if knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance. The hazardous substance must affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles and substantially impair one’s ability to drive. A hazardous substance is any chemical or compound listed under the state’s occupational safety and health standards.

In Carson, the driver was caught on multiple occasions slumped over in her vehicle after officers responded to calls from concerned citizens. Each time, officers found empty cans of Dust-Off in the vehicle. Each time, a blood or a urine sample revealed the presence of the chemical 1,1-difluoroethane (DFE) in the driver’s system. DFE is a propellant used in gas duster products, such as Dust-Off. Although it can be fatal, DFE is abused by some who inhale or “huff” it to get high.

DFE is not a controlled substance and the Court determined that DFE is neither a hazardous substance. Although it may carry the characteristics of a hazardous substance, it is not specifically listed as such by the Legislature. Since DFE is not a hazardous substance, one cannot get a DWI while driving, operating or in physical control of a motor vehicle after ingesting it.

It is expected that the Minnesota Legislature will consider expanding the list of hazardous substances in the near future.