On January 15th, 18-year-old Coty Miller crashed his car with three other teenagers into the front of a karate school in Gettysburg, PA. Originally, Brittany Hollinger, the prosecution's only witness, had told police that Coty bought the computer duster at a Wal-Mart and he and two others in the car then inhaled the contents. One of the passengers, Corwin Dillon, was her boyfriend at the time.
However, at a preliminary hearing as well as a later juvenile hearing, she recanted her story and said that she did not see the other passengers inhaling the duster. She said that she didn't even know what 'doing duster' meant, although the phrase was used in her handwritten account of the accident.
Adams County Assistant District Attorney Brian Sinnett said that even if she did testify to seeing the others huffing, it wouldn't matter because "the hospital didn't run the appropriate test to identify any substances that might have appeared in Miller's or Dillon's blood. "
Fred Davis also witnessed the accident. He claimed that he saw "Miller's car swerving around other vehicles on York Street before the accident. The driver, Miller, had his hands on the wheel, his eyes open, and that he and the front-seat passenger, Billings, were laughing."
Brittany Hollinger was injured in the crash, breaking two vertebrae in her back as well as cutting and bruising her head and hands.
Miller's charges originally included aggrevated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, DUI, inhaling toxic substances, corruption of minors, driving on the left side of the road, and three counts of reckless endangerment.
All were dropped except for the counts of reckless endangerment.
Will testing for inhalants be a problem for DWIs in the future? Inhalants dissipate rapidly from the bloodstream, and currently they can only be detected if blood is taken immediately after huffing and then frozen.
How much circumstantial evidence will be enough for an officer to determine whether or not a suspect is high from inhalants? Possible signs are a chemical smell on the suspect's person or vehicle, empty aerosol cans, or acting giddy or dizzy. It may become difficult to prosecute in these kinds of cases when there are no clear-cut tests for inhalants.
Story from The Evening Sun.