A sad case out of Nebraska has sparked public attention after a young woman was seriously injured in a crash with an impaired driver. The accident happened one recent evening in Omaha when an 18-year-old, high on inhalants, slammed into Lindsey Anderson. Anderson suffered broken bones and has undergone four surgeries so far to repair the damage caused by the crash. To many people’s amazement, the driver that caused the wreck faces only relatively minor charges, including reckless driving and being under the influence of an inhalant. No DUI.
The reason the teen hasn’t been charged with a DUI is that under Nebraska law, inhalants do not qualify as an intoxicating drug. The teen was huffing from a can of keyboard cleaning solution at the time of the crash and, though the effects of the inhalant are similar to alcohol and other intoxicating drugs, the inhalant is technically a chemical compound and not a drug.
Prosecutors in Nebraska say that while this may seem like a distinction without a difference, the simple fact is that those high on commercial cleaning inhalants cannot be charged with a standard DUI. Instead, prosecutors have had to assemble other charges designed to punish the driver. Experts say that the driver could face five months in jail if convicted on the misdemeanor charges. Had the huffing been covered under the state’s drunk driving law, he would have faced felony charges and possibly years behind bars.
The case has prompted the family of the injured girl to push for legislative changes so that future impaired drivers are not able to slip through the same crack in the judicial system. They want the law to be amended to specifically include commercial inhalants given the powerful effect the compounds can have on a driver’s ability to safely operate a car.
Though keyboard cleaner cans containing compressed air and some chemical compounds may not sound especially scary, doctors say that the use and abuse of such inhalants often proves deadly. The ease with which people are able to purchase the inhalants makes them especially dangerous; most can be picked up at the neighborhood convenience store.
The highs from these keyboard cleaners last only a few minutes at the most, but what they lack in longevity they make up for in intensity. Inhalants cut off the oxygen supply to the brain, which can lead to intense feelings of euphoria, a loss of inhibition and a general feeling of stimulation.
Though laws in Nebraska were not written to allow those high on duster products to be charged with drunk driving offenses, Minnesotans should understand that the same is not true in our state. Drivers in Minnesota have been charged with DWI after using inhalants, including keyboard-cleaning products. Though officers may not be able to prove impairment immediately, blood tests can reveal the presence of hazardous chemicals and lead to charges later, once the results come in.
Source: “Huffing Driver Can’t Be Charged With DUI,” by Mike McKnight, published at WOWT.com.