DWI Huffing Loophole Fix Scheduled for Senate Hearing
St. Paul, Minn. – Senator Greg Clausen’s (DFL – Apple Valley) bill to close a dangerous loophole in DWI law, Senate File 2479, has been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing will be held in Room 1100 of the Minnesota Senate Building at 1pm on Monday, March 5th.
Senate File 2479 replaces the current OSHA standard, which ties part of DWI law to a specific list of hazardous substances under the Department of Labor and Industry, to a definition of intoxicating substances. This change prevents the legislature from playing catch up with every new drug or chemical not included under the controlled substances or alcohol section of DWI law. The current loophole excludes dangerous chemicals like 1,1 difluoroethane (DFE), a compound in computer dusters and frequently “huffed” to get high. SF 2479 also creates uniformity through all DWI offenses by requiring prosecutors to prove a driver was “Under the influence,” the legal standard for alcohol and controlled substances offenses.
The legislation has the support of the DWI Task Force, the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Minnesotans for Safe Driving, the Household and Consumer Products Association, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, and numerous law enforcement groups. Senators Warren Limmer, Ron Latz, Dan Hall, and Justin Eichorn are co-authors on the proposal.
Senator Clausen began working on this issue after hearing from a constituent whose brother was killed by a driver high on DFE in Wisconsin. Under Wisconsin law, the driver could be convicted of a DWI. In the fall of 2017, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in State v. Carson that impairment due to DFE could not be convicted as a DWI because it was not specifically listed under existing statute as a “hazardous substance.”
After giving opening testimony on the legislation, Senator Clausen will be joined by a broad range of stakeholders, including David Bernstein (Chair of the DWI Task Force), Lt. Don Marose (State Patrol), Jeff Tate (Shakopee Police), Art Morrow (MADD), and more.