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Another “Name” Law – Kimmie’s Law – Do You Feel it’s Necessary? [POLL]

Flikr user Evil Erin
Flikr user Evil Erin

Ok, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now and telling yourself, “ another law named after an unfortunate victim of one kind or another!”

So did I!

What led to the creation of Kimmie’s Law was the story of a young woman who died in a car driven by a friend reportedly found to have had traces of inhalants in her bloodstream prior to getting into an accident.

You might be thinking that the driver would have been prosecuted for driving while intoxicated but according to the prosecutor in the case, there’s no scientific standard to measure inhalant intoxication like there would be to measure alcohol.

Hence, in the opinion of the prosecutor and a couple of State Legislators, the need to spell out what would be legally intoxicated for inhalant use!

According to this:

Kim Goupil and Kirby Lenihan had gone on a trip to a local donut shop on the night of Aug. 10, 2007.

Around 12:30 a.m., Lenihan’s car left the rain-slicked road and slammed into a street sign and the edge of a guardrail on Route 519 in Hampton Township. Goupil, 16, died the following day.

A toxicology report further determined Lenihan, 18, of Hamburg had been “huffing” from a can of dust remover and was under the influence of inhalants when her car hit the guardrail.

Kimmie’s Law, sponsored by state Sen. Steven Oroho, (R-Sussex), and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), was introduced in June.

The “zero tolerance” bill prohibits people from driving with any chemicals in their bloodstream resulting from inhalant use — meaning there is no acceptable level of those substances.

Like the state’s drunken driving law, which the Oroho-Weinberg bill revises, criminal prosecutions would result when an accident resulting in death, bodily injury or property damage occurred.

Lenihan, who suffered a head injury in the crash, pleaded guilty to recklessly causing severe bodily injury to a passenger, a third-degree offense, because as an adult Lenihan failed to ensure her juvenile passenger wore her seat belt. Lenihan also was not wearing a seat belt. An appeals court upheld her conviction earlier this month.

As part of a plea-bargain agreement, Lenihan was sentenced to three years of probation and 180 days in jail.

First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller, who handled Lenihan’s case and the subsequent appeal said he couldn’t prosecute Lenihan on more serious charges because there are no standards in New Jersey for inhalant intoxication. He couldn’t prove with “scientific certainty” that Lenihan was legally intoxicated.

Among the chemicals that would be prohibited under Kimmie’s Law are 1,1-Difluoroethane — a compound that was found in Lenihan’s blood sample about 45 minutes after the accident — acetone, benzene, amyl nitrate, nitrous oxide, toluene “or any other chemical substance capable of causing a condition of intoxication …” according to the bill.

“Under Kimmie’s Law, if you operate a motor vehicle with any of these chemicals in your system, you’re guilty of DWI,” Mueller said.

With bipartisan support from Weinberg, Oroho said he expected the bill to be signed into law within a year.

“Personally, I can’t see why there would be any opposition to it,” he said.

If signed into law, New Jersey would become the 20th state to prohibit drivers from having any illegal substances, including inhalants, in their bloodstreams, according to the nonprofit Governors Highway Safety Association.

It would appear to me that the current statutes on the books would suffice.

Furthermore, even if you work around certain chemical compounds and happen to inhale them, you could still be held liable for driving while under the influence if traces of these substances are found in your system?

Does that sound fair to you?

Do you feel Kimmie’s Law is necessary to address driving while under the influence of inhalants?


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