Alkyl Nitrites And Driving While Impaired: What You Need To Know

People in the United States have used alkyl nitrites – more commonly known as poppers – for several decades. These liquids have certain effects on the human body that are similar to other types of recreational drugs, but, unsurprisingly, these effects could cause problems while you are behind the wheel. Learn how these substances affect the body, and find out what you may need to do if you or someone you love faces a DWI charge arising from the use of poppers.

How poppers affect your body

You can normally buy poppers as small, liquid-filled bottles. Compounds in the liquid increase your heart rate and dilate your blood vessels. These effects allow the blood to flow around your body more quickly, including the supply to your brain. When users inhale the vapors from a bottle of poppers, the effects are often instantaneous, but short-lived.

The chemicals in a bottle of poppers:

  • Relax the soft muscle tissues in parts of your body
  • Increase sensitivity to touch
  • Give you a pleasant, warm feeling

Unsurprisingly, these effects mean that poppers have become a popular recreational drug for use during sexual activity or while socializing in a nightclub. 

Legal status

Doctors once prescribed amyl nitrite (one form of alkyl nitrite) in the United States, and the FDA actually removed the need for a prescription in 1960 because the drug had a good safety record. However, once recreational use took off in the 1960s, the government applied restrictions once more. After this, in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, U.S. Congress outlawed various types of alkyl nitrite.

However, the law still allows manufacturers to sell alkyl nitrites for 'commercial purposes'.  These purposes can include anything other than a product intended for inhalation. As such, poppers are readily available in many parts of the United States, where retailers sell them as video head cleaners, polish removers or room odorizers.

Poppers and DWI charges

Technically, a police officer could charge you with a DWI offense after you inhale poppers. He or she could argue that the effects of the chemical impaired your ability to drive safely to an appreciable degree. If you have an accident and/or injure somebody, you could face a significant penalty if a court finds you guilty of DWI.

It is illegal to breathe, inhale or drink any compound or liquid for the purpose of distorting or disturbing your auditory, visual or mental processes. Given that this is the intention behind inhaling from a bottle of poppers, a police officer could quite feasibly charge you with a DWI offense if he or she has probable cause to pull over your vehicle.

Dealing with a DWI charge from alkyl nitrite

If you or someone you love faces a DWI charge from poppers, you should contact a trained DUI attorney immediately. Each case is complex, and an experienced attorney can help you challenge the charge

Challenges your attorney may make include:

  • Disputing the suspicion you were under the influence. Alkyl nitrite inhalation creates fewer obvious physical problems than other drugs and chemicals, and the effects normally pass within a few minutes. As such, the police officer may not have enough evidence to support a claim that he or she believed you were under the influence.
  • Lack of available medical tests. Breathalyzer and blood alcohol tests remain unaffected by alkyl nitrite. If the officer did not see you inhale the compound, it is difficult to prove that you used the chemical.
  • Procedural problems. For example, the officer must afford you your Miranda rights upon arrest. If he or she fails to do this, any subsequent evidence gathered is not admissible in court.

It's important to understand that you may not just face a DWI charge. For example, in some states, it is a misdemeanor to possess a bottle of poppers without a prescription. Talk to an experienced attorney from a firm like Hart Law Offices, PC for more information and advice.

Alkyl nitrite (or poppers) is a controlled substance in the United States. If you drive under the influence of these compounds, you could face severe penalties.