Pennsylvania v. Packer (majority)Annotate this Case
Matthew Snyder was killed in an automobile collision caused by Danielle Packer, who inhaled (or “huffed”) difluoroethane (“DFE”) immediately before and while operating her vehicle. This case presented an issue involving the distinctions between ordinary recklessness and malice in the context of death or serious bodily injury caused by one driving under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance. The Commonwealth charged Packer with a litany of offenses, including, inter alia, third-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, homicide by vehicle, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence (“DUI”), and aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI. In separate conversations immediately following the accident, Packer told emergency medical personnel and a state trooper that the crash occurred while she was leaning down to adjust the radio. Packer also volunteered that she had used dust remover to clean her air vents. None of the individuals who spoke with Packer at the scene of the collision observed any signs of intoxication. While speaking with police, Packer complained of pain in her chest. Thereafter, she was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Packer consented to the request by police for a blood test at the hospital. The blood draw occurred at 12:47 a.m., three hours after the accident. Subsequent testing of her blood revealed DFE at a concentration of 0.28 micrograms per milliliter. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded the evidence presented at trial supported a finding that Packer acted with the requisite malice to support her convictions of third-degree murder and aggravated assault for the death and serious bodily injury she caused when she decided to drive a vehicle under the influence of DFE.