Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

Rhinelander Police officer and lawmakers work on fighting huffing and drivingSubmitted: 03/01/2013

Lane Kimble
Managing Editor/Anchor
lkimble@wjfw.com


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

ST. GERMAIN - A brand-new rental in St. Germain just opened for business last year. 

"I stumbled across the house and noticed it was vacant," said Roger Bauer.

Three years ago, with grass up to his knees, Roger knew he had a lot of work ahead of him. 

"[It was] a complete gut job, down to the bare studs," he said.

+ Read More

MERRILL - An 85-year-old Antigo woman will be in court Friday for the first time in the death of a Lincoln County highway worker last summer..

According to online court records, Mary Robinson is expected to face a charge of Homicide by Negligent use of a Vehicle.

50-year-old Marcus Wydeven was killed July 14, 2015 when he was hit by a car while working on a road construction project.

Wydeven worked on Lincoln County roads for 20 years before being hit and killed.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office said Wydeven was flagging southbound traffic with a stop sign when Robinson of Antigo hit him and then rolled her car into a ditch.

Robinson is due in court Friday afternoon.

+ Read More

FITCHBURG - Investigators will try to determine why a house exploded in Fitchburg, critically injuring a man and causing damage to at least two dozen other homes in the neighborhood.

+ Read More

MADISON - A new study suggests that Wisconsin's villages have struggled more with economic recovery than larger cities since the big recession of 2008-09.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the study also found the controversial Act 10 that was passed to limit collective bargaining by public workers saved local governments about $100 million, or 1.5 percent of total spending, in 2012.

+ Read More

Play Video

VILAS COUNTY - The person who killed a Phelps woman back in May remains free.

Hikers found the body of 47-year-old Luann Beckman on a trail near Noseeum Lake. Investigators ruled her death a homicide and sent all the evidence to the state crime lab in Madison. 

The Vilas County Sheriff told Newswatch 12 that his department has interviewed dozens of people and has a list of suspects, but it still needs DNA test results in order to make an arrest.

+ Read More

SAYNER - Bill Carper lost count long ago of the number of rounds he's played at Plum Lake Golf Club in Sayner.

"It's well over a thousand," he said.

+ Read More

Play Video

EAGLE RIVER - You might think a business incubator focuses on creating jobs.  But the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation lives by the mindset of creating opportunities, knowing that when you do that the jobs tend to follow.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here