Driver Found Guilty in Vehicular Homicide Case Involving Huffing
November 2, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, Drunk Driving/DUI, News & Announcements Social Share
Even some legal substances can still get you in trouble with the law. “Huffing” has started to become more popular in recent years among teens and young adults. The practice takes everyday cleaning supplies and makes them illegal by inhaling or ingesting them.
A recent case in South Florida shows just how dangerous huffing can be—resulting in one family’s death and another man’s conviction of vehicular homicide. This article will provide details of the case, along with information on huffing and vehicular homicide in Florida.
What was the Case?
On April 28th, 2018, Paul Streater crashed into a family’s van at speeds reaching over 100 mph on a 45 MPH Highway which resulted in the death of all four occupants. According to the State, Streater had been in rehabilitation at the time for drug abuse.
According to the Toxicology Report and a Walmart receipt showing Streater purchased two cans of Dust-Off, on the day of the accident, Streater was on a “euphoric high” caused by huffing a can of household dust cleaner.
The family from Mexico and Argentina had traveled to Florida to visit a family member when the accident occurred. Those killed in the crash include Jorge Raschiotto, 50, his sister Veronica Raschiotto, 42, and her two young children, Diego, 8, and Mia, 6.
When the case went to trial, Streater’s defense tried to argue that the chemical found in their client’s bloodstream was due to the car getting detailed that same day. He also claimed that there was a “catastrophic” malfunction that caused his vehicle to accelerate without the possibility of stopping.
Streater, now 25, has just been convicted of four counts of vehicular homicide for each of the family members killed in the crash. The jury had acquitted the defendant on charges of DUI manslaughter and driving under the influence.
Streater’s bond was revoked by Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen, the same judge who will sentence him on December 20th, 2022.
What is Huffing?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an average of 10% of Americans 12 and older have abused inhalants in an act called “huffing.” The practice takes place by spraying an inhalant onto a rag and then sniffing it. The reaction from “huffing” causes an immediate rush of euphoria, and possibly hallucinations.
The term “inhalants” refers to the substances that people take only by inhaling. These substances include solvents (liquids that become gas at room temperature), aerosol sprays, gases, and nitrites (prescription medicines for chest pain). The term inhalant can refer to a variety of drugs that can contain vapors and psychoactive effects.
One of the more common inhalants is Dust-Off, which is a popular brand of canned air typically used as a household item for removing dust from electronics. The main ingredient contained in Dust-Off is difluoroethane. While Dust-Off is technically legal to purchase from any store selling cleaning supplies, Florida law makes it illegal to inhale such products.
Florida Statute section 877.111 explains that it is illegal to possess with the intent to breathe, inhale, or drink any compound, liquid, or chemical containing toluol, hexane, trichloroethylene, acetone, toluene, ethyl acetate, methyl ethyl ketone, trichloroethane, isopropanol, methyl isobutyl ketone, ethylene glycol monomethyl ether acetate, cyclohexanone, nitrous oxide, diethyl ether, alkyl nitrites, or any similar substance for the purpose of inducing a condition of intoxication or which distorts the auditory, visual, or mental processes.
It is also unlawful for any person to possess, buy, sell, or transfer any chemicals mentioned above for the purpose of inducing or aiding another person to violate the above law. A violation of the law is considered a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida. A second-degree misdemeanor has a penalty of up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.
If a person is arrested for knowingly selling, distributing, purchasing, transferring, or possessing more than 16 grams of nitrous oxide, it is considered a third-degree felony in Florida. A third-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
Side-Effects of Huffing
Aside from the legal consequences, huffing inhalants can also affect a person’s well-being. After the “euphoric feeling” generated from huffing, there are several concerning side effects. Huffing can cause loss of inhibitions, affect a person’s decision-making ability, cause slurred speech, and in some cases can cause temporary paralysis. The side effects of huffing can typically last between 15 to 30 minutes. The following is a list of short-term side effects caused by huffing:
- Trouble Breathing
- Loss of Coordination and Motor Control
- Frostbite of the Nose, Mouth, and Throat
In addition to the more common side effects, there is also the concern of “sudden sniffing death.” This term refers to a deadly heart failure caused by huffing. It can happen even if it is the user’s first-time huffing. Sudden death from huffing has happened in the past due to the user having underlying heart issues but should stand as a warning to anyone considering using it. Other more serious side effects include loss of oxygen to the brain, asphyxiation, loss of consciousness, and seizures.
Because the gases that a person inhales during huffing are poisonous toxins, long-term air dusters inhalants can suffer from cognitive impairment and permanent brain damage.
Research shows that huffing can cause damage to the membranes in the brain, and can lead to problems in the functionality of the brain stem. This can all lead to a variety of sensory and motor issues that can continue for the rest of the user’s life.
If the above didn’t sound dangerous enough, other long-term effects of huffing include the bone marrow becoming toxic, lasting slurred speech and hearing loss, tremors, eyesight, and mood disorders.
Huffing can also cause damage to the brain’s central nervous system, the liver, the heart, the kidneys, and the lungs. Huffing is not just physically and psychologically damaging, but as previously explained it easily turns deadly.
Vehicular Homicide in Florida
Florida Statute section 782.071 defines vehicular homicide as when a human being or unborn child is killed by a motor vehicle by another person who is operating in a reckless manner likely to cause great bodily harm, or death, to another. Unlike a DUI manslaughter charge, vehicular homicide does not require the element of the driver operating under the influence of alcohol. The main element in vehicular homicide is that the driver must be operating the vehicle recklessly which is likely to either cause the death of another or great bodily harm.
Vehicular manslaughter is considered a second-degree felony in Florida. A second-degree felony has penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison. If the accused driver fled the scene of the accident or did not offer any aid to the victims, then the charges become enhanced to a first-degree felony. The penalties for a first-degree felony include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison.
To find out more about the difference between DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, read our page here.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
While it is still legal to purchase common cleaning supplies, it remains illegal to partake in huffing in the state of Florida. If you or someone you love has been accused of huffing inhalants, or selling inhalants used for huffing, we advise you to seek out legal help. A skilled Tallahassee criminal defense attorney will help build a strong defense for your case, and work towards earning your freedom. Pumphrey Law Firm has worked with individuals across Florida for various charges. Contact us today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave us an online message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key