Senate Calls On Assembly To Act On Legislation To Include "huffing" In The Charge Of Driving While Intoxicated

Martin J. Golden

June 28, 2007

Brooklyn- Members of the New York State Majority Conference including Senator Marty Golden (R-C, Brooklyn) today called on the State Assembly to immediately join the Senate in passing legislation (S.391), sponsored by Senator Cathy Young (R-I-C, Olean), to expand the definition of a drug to include glue sniffing or aerosol inhalation within the grounds for drug-impaired driving.

The urgent call comes in response to a State Court of Appeals ruling that asserted New York lawmakers must tackle the problem of inhaling, or "huffing" glue or aerosols when it comes to cases involving impaired drivers. The Court of Appeals dismissed a 2004 case concluding that the meaning of "intoxicated" within the law is "limited to a driver’s impairment by the consumption of alcohol."

According to the court case, 19-year-old Vincent Litto was driving in Brooklyn with three passengers, all 13-year-old boys, when he allegedly inhaled the spray from an aerosol can of "Dust-Off" in January of 2004. Nearly a minute later, he veered across the center line and collided with an oncoming car, killing 17-year-old Kristina Roggio. Two passengers in Litto's car and two in the other vehicle were seriously injured.

"This legislation broadens the scope of driving while ability impaired by drugs to include the use of inhalants, which has the same devastating effect on the body as alcohol does. As the Court wrote in their decision, the Legislature intended it to apply only to intoxication caused by alcohol. This bill closes that loophole and expands the definition of drug to include glue sniffing, or aerosol inhalation within the grounds for drug-impaired driving."

"Kristina Roggio was loved by her community and nearly three years after her tragic death, a makeshift memorial still stands on Gerritsen Avenue to celebrate her life," said Brooklyn Senator Marty Golden, Chair of the Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices. "State laws must be updated to reflect that chemically impaired drivers pose a serious and life-threatening danger to society."

"Dust-Off," which is generally used to clean electronic equipment, contains a hydrocarbon propellant that has a depressive effect on the central nervous system, according to a toxicologist who testified before the grand jury.

The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition reports that inhalants can produce effects similar to anesthetics, which slow down the body's function. Varying upon level of dosage, the user can experience slight stimulation, feelings of less inhibition or loss of consciousness. The user can also suffer from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, which could cause death the 1st, 10th or 100th time they use an inhalant. Other effects include damage to the heart, kidney, brain, liver, bone marrow and other organs. Inhalants are physically and psychologically addicting and users suffer withdrawal symptoms.

Chronic inhalant abuse may result in serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the user's heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Brain damage may result in personality changes, diminished cognitive functioning, memory impairment, and slurred speech.

"This bill has failed to pass the Assembly since 2002," said Senator Golden. "I’m urging the Assembly to close this loophole in the law allowing drivers which are obviously intoxicated to escape criminal punishment."