ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) — A Minnesota man busted 10 times for DWI may be the first person in the state accused of breaking a brand new state law.
Investigators said Michael Andrist, 46 of Rochester, injected bath salts before getting behind the wheel on Sunday near Vermillion in Dakota County.
A law banning synthetic drugs in Minnesota went into effect on Friday, which makes that consumption illegal.
According to Dakota County Sheriff’s investigators, repeat 911 callers said Michael Andrist’s blue pickup swerved into the ditch of Highway 52, between 160th and 215th Streets, reaching speeds of 70 miles per hour on the shoulder.
According to court records, after a short pursuit, a Dakota County Sheriff’s deputy caught up with him without shoes, stumbling and swaying. But still, Andrist blew “all zeroes” into the breathalyzer.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said that’s when Andrist confessed, after changing his story several times.
“He basically admitted to the use of bath salts. That is what we believe it was. We are doing the tests to verify it,” said Backstrom.
When the deputy found a syringe on Andrist, he said he injects bath salts because “they have the same effects of shooting meth but without the high costs.”
The July 1 law bans substances with similar effects to illegal drugs, which range from bath salts to fake marijuana and even the chemical 2c-e, which was blamed for the recent mass overdose in Blaine that killed a 19-year-old.
“The law went into effect without scientific evidence,” said Minneapolis-based Trial Attorney Marc Kurzman.
Kurzman said there isn’t enough proof that the consumption is criminal. He represents stores including Down In The Valley, which sold bath salts until recently. Kurzman unsuccessfully filed a lawsuit to stop a ban he called too vague.
“There is no excuse for driving under the influence,” said Kurzman. But, he said, “The statute is unconstitutional and overly broad. Because of things like this, there will be scores, hundreds of cases, that are going to be broad and in each one, there will be a constitutional challenge raised.”
Hennepin County Judge William Howard denied the group’s request for a temporary restraining order last week, saying it was too soon to decide whether the new law is too vague because no one has faced criminal charges under it.
Now Kurzman said the group of retailers will still fight to overturn the law, saying this first case will provide evidence for the court.
“My clients don’t want to be criminals and would like to know what is legal and illegal,” said Kurzman.
But Backstrom said he believes when it comes to the danger of designer drugs, Andrist’s case provides the proof. He testified at the State Capitol in support of the law.
“If it has negative impact on a few business, that is unfortunate, not okay to be selling substances harmful to our citizens,” said Backstrom. “This is a change that needed to happen and this case illustrates that. They were fortunately able to stop him before anyone was seriously injured or killed.”