Court Says New York DWI Laws Do Not Cover Huffing

The New York Supreme Court ruled that impaired driving from ‘huffing’ the stimulants in an aerosol is not considered DWI. The reason is that the state legislature outlined the definition of driving while intoxicated to include the influence of alcohol and certain drugs, but not inhalants.

The case stems from a vehicular manslaughter case where the driver who allegedly sprayed a can of ‘Dust Off’ cleaner in his mouth less than a minute before crashing into an oncoming car. While the high court felt the event was ‘reprehensible’, it felt it could not find a determination of intoxication under the current Vehicle and Traffic Law. A 1966 law against driving while under the influence of drugs was not of benefit either, as it covers only specifically listed drugs.

Huffing is the street term for inhaling chemicals given off by aerosols, paints and glues. They replace oxygen in a person’s lungs and blood stream providing a feeling of euphoria. The practice can be fatal.

The court recommended that state legislators address the legal gap. Ironically, a bill that would have included inhalants and glues as causes of impairment under New York DWI laws did not get out of Assembly committee this past Spring.

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