Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 2:43 p.m.
Call him Eddie, and not just because that's his first name, but also because that's the only name we have for this 17-year-old whose full identity is shielded by sealed juvenile-court records.
In July 2009, Eddie was driving four friends in an SUV to visit the ocean at Huntington Beach when he stopped on the shoulder of the road to get high.
But Eddie's choice of intoxicant wasn't beer or liquor or even marijuana. He--and the four other underage vehicle occupants--inhaled nitrous-oxide gas from a tank in the back seat, according to court records.
(One of the boys would later testify that the group wanted "to get a little high" to enhance their beach experience. When consumed by humans, laughing gas supplies wildly euphoric feelings and hallucinations.)
Eddie resumed driving, pulled over a second time to inhale another blast of gas and quickly returned to the road.
Here's what witness saw next: Eddie's SUV speed excessively down the road, strike a truck, cross an intersection, slam into a curb, flip over and spin on its hood.
Fortunately, the boys suffered only minor injures.
But Eddie's definitely not laughing nowadays.
John C. Gastelum, an unimpressed juvenile-court judge, found him guilty of driving under the influence of a drug as well as reckless driving. The judge also declared him a ward of the state, revoked his driver's license, and ordered him to perform 15 days of community service and attend a drunk-driver-diversion program.
We'd never know about Eddie's antics, but he appealed his punishment to the California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana.
--Police couldn't prove laughing gas had been in the tank after the crash;
--Nitrous oxide isn't a drug listed in the vehicle code;
and my favorite claim . . .
--There is "insufficient evidence" to prove he was high during the incident.
This week, a three-justice appellate panel gave Eddie his answers: no, no and give me a break.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly