NEWS STORIES

Rhinelander Police officer and lawmakers work on fighting huffing and drivingSubmitted: 03/01/2013
Story By Lane Kimble


RHINELANDER - It can kill you the first time you try it, but kids and adults seem to be doing it anyway. Inhaling aerosol sprays for a simple high. It's called huffing. But it wasn't illegal in Wisconsin until 2005.

"Having a legal thing that people can do made it more appealing that you can just go to the store and get chemical sprays and dusters and get high off that and not face any consequences," Rhinelander Police Sgt. Kurt Helke said. "At least now there's a consequence to that."

Helke helped lead the charge seven years ago to make huffing a crime. Now it's a class A misdemeanor. But his fight is far from over.

About a month ago, a Rhinelander driver named Matthew Taulbut crashed his car into the curb here, on Baird and Dahl streets near the county courthouse. Police found him slumped over the wheel with aerosol cans in his lap.

But ironically enough, Taulbut, who crashed just a block from where the law is upheld, couldn't be charged criminally with his 4th OWI. Huffing isn't defined as an intoxicant. At least not yet.

State Representative Rob Swearingen is a co-sponsor of this bill making its way around the Capitol. Sergeant Helke contacted him and other lawmakers with hopes of amending the drunk driving laws.

"Essentially what we're going to do is open up the word intoxicant and include the word inhalant, like huffing, and include that so that police actually have some teeth when they try to enforce the law," Swearingen said.

Lawmakers from both sides are coming together to draft the bill. The next stop will be in a legislative committee before heading to a hearing. Swearingen thinks the process should be smooth.

"It's highly likely, depending on any opposition, and I don't know why anyone would oppose this, but pending any opposition, something like this is good, common sense legislation," Swearingen said.

That's good news for Sgt. Helke and police everywhere.

"Unfortunately in most places, they aren't aware or there isn't anything spurned until somebody dies," Helke said. "And we don't want to wait until somebody dies until the awareness is risen."

Awareness and a law, that should make the roads safer.

"I think this is a simple fix, I don't think it's a big deal, but it's something that should get done, needs to get done so they can do their job," Swearingen said.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS

Play Video

MARATHON COUNTY - A 22-year-old Weston man faces four charges for allegedly putting a 16-month-old child's face in extremely hot water. He faces nearly 40 years in prison if convicted.

+ Read More

Play Video

MADISON - The number of walleye fishermen can keep could change. The DNR wants to change how it sets the walleye bag limit in ceded territory.

It wants a three walleye bag limit for all lakes and rivers in the territory.

The tribes have treaty rights allowing them to harvest fish from lakes in most of northern Wisconsin.

The Natural Resources Board will consider the proposal on April 8th.

+ Read More

Play Video

WOOD COUNTY - A Pittsville high school senior died in a two car crash on Wednesday in Wood County.

18-year-old Kayla Ignatowski died at the scene.

It happened at 7:39 a.m. on County Highway A, between Hilltop Road and Sunset Road north of Pittsville.

Investigators believe Ignatowski's car crossed the centerline while going around a curve, hitting the other car head on.

+ Read More

Play Video

NORTHWOODS - On Tuesday, a Michigan man named Steven Snyder robbed a Wausaukee bank. Before he was killed later that day, police say Snyder killed a state trooper and another person.

Bank workers in Wausaukee, like those in other Northwoods banks, likely had been trained in advance on what to do if being robbed.

In Rhinelander, the police department works directly with banks and credit unions to prepare workers for a potential robbery.

+ Read More

Play Video

ANTIGO - An Antigo man could spend more than 40 years in prison for allegedly biting a piece of another man's ear off during a bar fight.

According to court documents, 26-year-old James Pendleton was sitting across the bar from the victim and a woman who had a restraining order against Pendleton.

+ Read More

KIEL - Funeral services are scheduled for a Wisconsin state trooper killed in a shootout with a bank robbery suspect.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry uses creative ways to get food donations. One of their fundraisers, CANtastic, just finished up for the year.

Nine teams used more than 4,300 cans to build replicas of historic buildings. Then, more than 700 people used cans to vote for their favorite structure.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here