In Michigan, it is against the law to operate a vehicle while intoxicated by an inhalant such as glue, paint, or other chemical agent.
What is an Inhalant?
A solvent chemical absorbed into the body through inhalation (huffing) is an inhalant.
Solvents are chemical agents often found in everyday household products. Such chemicals include benzene, toluene, chloroform, Freon, methanol, and other coolants, glues, and paints.
A person may not operate a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance. The law defines intoxicating substances in a broad manner, which include chemical solvent inhalants such as paints, glues, and others.
The law states intoxicating substances include, “a substance, other than food, taken into a person’s body, including, but not limited to, vapors or fumes, that is used in a manner or for a purpose for which it was not intended, and that may result in a condition of intoxication.”
Getting High on Inhalants
The high from these inhalants creates disorientation, dizziness, stimulation, and perception changes. Higher levels of use can cause double vision, ringing in the ears, and can disrupt muscular coordination.
Blood levels peak within a few minutes after huffing. The high produced from these inhalants generally lasts for shorter time frames than other drugs.
What Does it Mean to be Under the Influence of an Inhalant?
A person must be “under the influence” of the inhalant to be guilty of operating while intoxicated. Under the influence means a person’s ability to operate a vehicle in a normal manner is substantially lessened by the inhalant.
The inhalant must have a direct impact on the person’s ability to drive and also lessen the ability to drive. There must be a correlation between the inhalant and the driving.
Operating while visibly impaired by an inhalant is a lesser offense of operating while intoxicated. This lesser crime means a person drove with less ability than an ordinary careful driver.
Use of an Inhalant to get High is a Crime
The law prohibits use of a chemical agent for the purpose of causing a condition of intoxication, euphoria, excitement, exhilaration, stupefaction, or dulling of the sense of the nervous system. This includes the smelling or inhalation, eating, drinking, or intentional introduction of a chemical agent into the respiratory or circulatory system, other than for medical or dental purposes. MCL 752.272.
Using inhalants to get high is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail, a $100.00 fine, or both. MCL 752.273.
Theoretically (though not a good idea or recommended), a person could illegally use an inhalant to get high but not be under the influence of the inhalant for the crime of driving while intoxicated.
Is Possession of an Inhalant a Crime?
It is not against the law to be in possession of these types of solvent inhalants. You can purchase solvents legally in stores. Solvents include household products such as wite-out, nail polish, and paints. The crime is in the use of them to get high or while driving under the influence of them.
What’s the Penalty for Operating While Intoxicated By An Inhalant?
A first-offense OWI is a misdemeanor, punishable by up 93 days in jail, fines and court costs, or both. Driver’s license sanctions include a 30-day license suspension followed by license restrictions. Penalties increase for a second-offense (violation within 7 years of first conviction), and third and more offenses (a felony regardless of how many years pass between violations). MCL 625.257
Sam Bernstein is a criminal defense lawyer in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
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