St. Paul, Minn. – Senator Greg Clausen’s (DFL – Apple Valley) bill to close a dangerous loophole in DWI law passed the Senate and is one step away from the Governor’s desk. The House is expected to vote on the bill within the next few days.
The legislation, contained within Senate File 2578, criminalizes driving while under the influence of an “intoxicating substance.” This definition includes the chemical found in air dusters, Difluoroethane 1,1 (DFE). While intended to be used to clean electronics, the chemical gives a user a high when intentionally “huffed.” Minnesota has experienced an increase in intoxicating substance impaired drivers.
Senator Clausen began working on this issue after hearing from a constituent whose brother was tragically 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 state statute as a “hazardous substance.” After the ruling, Senator Clausen began drafting the legislation in consultation with the Minnesota DWI Task Force and a number of stakeholder groups. His original bipartisan bill, SF 2479, was rolled into SF 2578, the omnibus controlled substances bill, after receiving a favorable committee hearing.
In response, Senator Clausen released the following statement:
“I am pleased we were able to close this dangerous loophole with bipartisan support. This change will allow law enforcement and prosecutors to get dangerously intoxicated impaired drivers off the road and place them into the necessary treatment programs. I am hopeful that the House and Governor will approve this bill. It will go a long way in saving lives and assisting law enforcement to remove impaired drivers from our roads. I would like to especially thank the DWI Task Force, a citizen-led group which reviews DWI-related issues and advises policymakers on DWI legislation, for their tireless advocacy and support in passing this bill.”