For those South Carolina readers who are unfamiliar with the term “huffing,” it refers to the practice of intentionally inhaling commonly found chemicals with the intention of achieving a state of intoxication. The substances chosen are often household chemicals stored in pressurized aerosol cans. Users simply spray small amounts of the toxic substances and breathe in the fumes. Aside from the serious health consequences of such behavior, the end result is a level of intoxication that can affect an individual’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. With concern that such practices could endanger the public, a push is underway to include huffing as a basis for DUI charges.
This move is problematic, however. Current DUI charges do not specifically include the intentional inhalation of toxic substances as a basis for arrest. That leaves police in a difficult position when they encounter a driver who is believed to be intoxicated in this manner. For example, one driver who was recently pulled over by police was clearly huffing in front of officers, but was not arrested for driving under the influence. That same individual was found two weeks later passed out in a running vehicle, but was still not charged with DUI.
Another matter lies in the strict requirements surrounding a DUI arrest. Drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated must be on video when given sobriety testing. There must also be clear toxicology reports in place that demonstrate that a driver was under the influence at the time of arrest. Unfortunately, however, there are no commonly available tests for huffing, as the chemical exit the body a short time after being inhaled. There are some blood screening that can effectively prove that these chemicals are present, but those tests must be administered within a short period of time after the event.
The matter may be addressed in the upcoming legislative session, but for now law enforcement and the courts are limited to the existing DUI charges and procedures. One South Carolina prosecutor wants to test the law by bringing more huffing cases before the courts. This may lead to more arrests when police suspect that a driver has been purposely inhaling chemicals. How these charges will be handled by the state’s courts, however, is yet to be known.
Source: wcnc.com, “DUI charge rarely comes from huffing and driving”, Diane Gallagher, Nov. 12, 2014