Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

Rhinelander Police officer and lawmakers work on fighting huffing and drivingSubmitted: 03/01/2013
Lane Kimble
Lane Kimble
News Director
lkimble@wjfw.com

Rhinelander Police officer and lawmakers work on fighting huffing and driving
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

RHINELANDER - Nineteen months ago, 10 police agencies surrounded the Tripoli home of Kenneth Welsh.

Police say Welsh caused a three-hour standoff, threatened to blow up his house, and threatened to kill his wife.

Later in court, he was convicted of two felonies and sentenced to three years in prison by Oneida County Judge Michael Bloom.

But now, those convictions and prison sentence have been erased. This month, while in prison, Welsh argued he didn't fully understand all the elements of one of the crimes to which he pleaded no contest, first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Welsh's motion put some of the blame on his defense attorney, Rod Streicher.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - For the last six years, chambers of commerce across the state collected more than 100,000 items for the Department of Tourism's Big Bundle Up campaign.

The drive collects warm clothing for people who can't afford it. 

The Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce donates the items it collects to Warm for Winter in Rhinelander. 

+ Read More

BESSEMER, MI - Search teams found a 65-year-old Woodruff woman dead in Michigan's Upper Peninsula Wednesday morning.

The Gogebic County Sheriff's Office searched Black River Harbor (which is north of Bessemer) after receiving information that the woman might be in the area.

+ Read More

TOMAHAWK - To sisters Kathy and Julia, Thanksgiving Day is about more than just turkey, potatoes, and prep work. 

"[It's] kind of always been a special holiday for my parents, who are no longer with us," said Julia Pankow. 

Kathy and Julia grew up in a large family with 11 other siblings, which meant a Thanksgiving Day meal was always as big in heart as it was in size.  

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - This holiday season, you might want to tell your child to hug family members at holiday gatherings.

The Girls Scouts of the USA hopes you won't. The organization is saying daughters don't owe anyone physical affection, and that the expectation of hugs and kisses could have bad aftereffects later in life.

"I think for some people, it is a new concept," said Melissa K., the domestic violence coordinator at Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual assault, which is based in Rhinelander.

In a post, the Girl Scouts of the USA told parents their daughters don't "owe anyone a hug. Not even at the holidays."

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - A number of Rhinelander police and firefighters will work a weekend morning shift in December and won't get paid for it.  It's an extra task they're happy to help with.

The Rhinelander Police Department's Shop With a Cop program returns December 16.  Police and firefighters take 20 third grade students from Crescent, Pelican, Zion, and Nativity schools shopping for Christmas presents at Walmart.  The schools recommend students for the event.

+ Read More

Play Video

CONOVER - People in Conover and Phelps came together with an idea to connect the two communities by bike trail. Seven years later, the Great Headwaters Trail foundation can see the end of that trail. 

Construction of the first 9 miles of the trail were completed this fall. The trail needs a little more than 2 miles until it's connected to Phelps.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 





Click Here