Minnesota's new law has netted at least one arrest, a driver who allegedly injected "bath salts."
A Rochester man arrested on Sunday on charges of driving under the influence of synthetic drugs may be the first Minnesota driver prosecuted under a new law that made such substances illegal.
Michael A. Andrist, 46, was arrested near Rosemount after he'd been spotted driving his truck 70 miles per hour down the shoulder of Hwy. 52, going in and out of the ditch. He was caught after a brief chase, and though he passed an alcohol breath test, he allegedly admitted to police that he had injected "bath salts."
Such substances, similar in chemical structure and pharmacological effects to illegal drugs such as marijuana and LSD, have triggered a series of federal and state laws around the country and were blamed in the death of a 19-year-old at a party in Blaine in March, where 10 other people were sickened.
The charges filed on Wednesday may well be Minnesota's first felony prosecution of a person allegedly driving under the influence of a synthetic drug, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.
On July 1, the state enacted the new ban. The products in question are typically labeled "not for human consumption," which has allowed them to stay on the market even though a federal law against them already is in place. Described as bath salts or herbal incense, they're sold in foil packets for up to $50 apiece.
While the fake drugs have been linked to medical emergencies and even deaths, Backstrom said he worries about the next step with synthetic drugs, which can cause hallucinations: He worries that users will get behind the wheel.
Andrist, who authorities said has 10 DWI convictions, has been charged with three felony counts of first-degree driving while impaired and also with fleeing police and possessing drug paraphernalia. Backstrom said he knows of no other such prosecutions in Minnesota under the new law.
Andrist is charged with a felony for each count of the impaired driving offenses because of his felony record for drunk driving.
According to a criminal complaint, the Dakota County Sheriff's Office received numerous 911 calls on July 3 about a blue pickup truck that was having trouble staying on the road.
It was speeding down the shoulder of Hwy. 52 near 160th Street, near Rosemount. The truck kept driving into the ditch, then onto the shoulder, callers said. Backstrom called the situation "extremely dangerous."
A deputy sheriff positioned his cruiser in the median of the highway. He saw the truck crest a hill, foliage hanging from its front bumper and undercarriage. Then came a slow, brief chase.
"Upon approaching the vehicle, the deputy observed the lone male occupant to be obviously impaired," the complaint states. "He was very jittery and excited, yet his mental state was slow and confused. The male had a difficult time understanding where he was and why he was being stopped."
Backstrom said he's grateful for the new law. Without it, he couldn't have filed appropriate charges in this case, he said.
Joy Powell • 952-882-9017