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What Are Illegal Inhalants? What Are the Criminal Penalties?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

An inhalant can be any type of gas or chemical that a person inhales to get high. Frequently, inhalants are sprayed or poured onto cloth rags, and a person will inhale the chemical or gas fumes to get high.

Most commonly-used illegal inhalants are actually legal products that a person can buy at a general store. For example, whipped cream in a can, rubber cement glue, and spray paint, are common inhalants that can be readily purchased in countless stores. While users might get temporarily intoxicated, the use of inhalants is linked to numerous side effects, including the potential for death.

What Makes Inhalants Illegal?

Not all states have criminal laws against using inhalants. However, a majority of states do have penalties for selling or providing common inhalants to minors. For the states that do criminalize these types of household inhalants, the law can often be confusing.

While a person can walk into a store and legally purchase illegal inhalants, the inhalant isn't considered illegal until it gets used for getting high. To prove an inhalant was being used for the illegal purpose, law enforcement will generally have to rely on finding paraphernalia, or catching a person in the act, or, famously, catching a person with their face covered in paint.

Can I Get Arrested for Sniffing Glue?

Depending on state law, there is actually the potential for a person to be arrested if they are caught huffing or sniffing glue, paint, nitrous, or other inhalants, for the purpose of getting high. If arrested, there may even be jail time included int he penalty. However, penalties are generally not too harsh for inhalant offenses. Although, administering, providing, or selling, inhalants to others can be charged as a more serious crime.

In New York, a person can actually go to jail for 5 days and be fined $50 for huffing inhalants. In California, certain inhalants, such as nitrous oxide, can result in misdemeanor charges, which can result in jail time.

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