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Driving under the influence of inhalants is a punishable offense, too

On Behalf of | Oct 31, 2023 | DUI

Although charges for driving under the influence (DUI) are often associated with consuming alcohol, liquor isn’t the only thing that can impair drivers.

By Alaska law, drivers who are under the effect of an intoxicating inhalant can also face DUI charges. What are these inhalants, and will a conviction lead to specific penalties?

What are inhalants?

According to the state, inhalants are volatile materials or substances that can be readily vaporized at room temperature and cause adverse health effects to the inhaler. While they can cause intoxication as an immediate effect, abusing inhalants can also lead to a lack of oxygen, pneumonia, heart failure and even brain damage.

Some common inhalants include:

  • Solvents: Gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner, contact cement, nail polish remover
  • Gases: Nitrous oxide from aerosol containers, computer-cleaning air sprays, propane and butane tanks

Certain inhalable medical anesthetics can also produce an intoxicating effect. These include desflurane, halothane, isoflurane and sevoflurane. While these aren’t as readily accessible as other inhalants that are household items, patients who have been subjected to these anesthetics shouldn’t attempt to drive.

Do inhalant-affected drivers face the same penalties for regular DUI?

A first offense for driving while under the influence of an inhalant is a Class A misdemeanor under Alaska law. This is the same criminal grade for a first-time DUI offender drunk on alcohol, so most of the penalties still apply.

If a court convicts a driver of DUI for using an inhalant, it might not require the driver to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on their vehicle. But, if the court finds that a combination of inhalants, alcohol or drugs intoxicated the driver, the IID requirement will stick. The court will also still order the driver to attend a substance abuse or drug treatment program.

No matter how a driver gets intoxicated, an inebriated person behind the wheel commits an offense per Alaska law. The state has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country, and its penalties reflect that hardline stance.