Huffing DUIs: Operating While Intoxicated by Inhalants

In Michigan, you can be charged with operating while intoxicated from huffing inhalants, which the use of solvent chemicals (glues, paints, gasses, etc.) to get high. This article discusses fighting OWIs involving inhalant use.

What is Huffing?

Huffing is the inhalation of a solvent chemical to become intoxicated. These chemicals can be found in products such as paints, glues, and gasses. The chemicals are otherwise legal – it’s the use of the chemicals that is illegal. Furthermore, driving while under the influence of the chemicals is a violation of the operating while intoxicated laws. These chemicals are considered an “intoxicating substance.”

Can you beat a Huffing DUI?

It is possible to fight and beat a DUI. In many courts, plea bargains are unavailable, so your two options are plead guilty as charged or go to trial.

First, we would look at ways to beat DUIs generally. Second, we then look to beat the DUI as it specifically involves intoxication based on huffing. Let’s start with the second way because this article is specifically about getting a DUI from huffing.

Beating a Huffing DUI

In a huffing DUI trial, the question is whether a person was driving while under the influence of the substance. More specifically, was a person’s ability to drive substantially lessened as a result of huffing paint or sniffing glue?

We look at the intoxicating abilities of these chemicals, and let’s compare them to alcohol. The intoxicating high produced from huffing chemicals is very similar to the intoxication produced from alcohol. Though there is a big difference.

The absorption and dissipation of alcohol in the body is predictable and has been studied extensively. Once alcohol enters the body, the blood alcohol content rises according to how much alcohol was drunk and when, and then falls at a rate of about .015 to .02 per hour (like one drink). The body can only get rid of alcohol at a structured rate and not sooner. This is all depends also on body weight. That’s why you’re able to Google blood alcohol content calculators on the internet.

The effects of solvent chemical inhalants is less predictable and less studied. The major difference is the time of intoxication, and this is important for beating a huffing DUI. The period of time of intoxication from huffing is very short. Upon use, blood levels rise very quickly but don’t last long. Inhalant users generally will continue huffing many over a period of time to maintain the intoxication.

Alcohol intoxication lasts longer than inhalant intoxication because the alcohol leaves the body at a set, slower, rate.

Detection of Alcohol Use v. Inhalant Use

Another difference is in the detection of the drug use. Detecting alcohol use is relatively easy – a person smells like they have been drinking. Then they blow into a preliminary breath test and then provide a sample at the station or do a blood draw which results in a reading of blood alcohol levels.

This is not the case with inhalant use. There is no easy and simple way to detect inhalant use without other evidence. A person may seem intoxicated from huffing. Indeed, inhalant intoxication is similar to the alcohol high. But a police officer may have a difficult time making the determination that someone is high from sniffing glue, especially once a PBT is administered with a 0.00 reading.

Beating DUIs in General

There are always the methods to fight the DUI in general. Did the police officer have cause to pull someone over? Was there bad driving? Did the police officer have grounds to arrest after the field sobriety tests? And so on.

Grounds to Fight

In these cases, we look to see how we can beat the DUI from the conventional routes, and then in these huffing DUIs we must focus on the inhalant use as well. We must look at the specific drug at issue.

Focus on DUI Law

Whether someone is “under the influence” of a substance depends on the substance itself. Each type of substance will have different effects. At ArborYpsi Law, we study the drugs and the effects on the body. The only way to effectively fight these cases is to dig into the science and use that at trial.

Call ArborYpsi Law

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at

Sam Bernstein is an Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor OWI Lawyer.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 2750 Carpenter Rd #2, Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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