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Police chief charged with DWI after allegedly crashing patrol car

Bertram Police Chief James Wilson was charged with a DWI Thursday after he was indicted earlier this month in an incident regarding hay bales.

Wilson was booked and released on Thursday, according to online records.

The documents show DPS troopers were called to the 5000 block of RM 1431 on Wednesday for reports of a crashed vehicle in the ravine. At 8:34 p.m., troopers found a marked Bertram Police Department unit inside the tree line off the north edge of the roadway with noticeable damage. DPS said the vehicle was locked and abandoned, but the trooper could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage at the scene.


DPS confirmed Wilson was the driver of the vehicle by completing a driver’s license check. Dispatchers advised the trooper that Wilson was going to the Scott & White hospital in Marble Falls.

DPS spoke with a witness on scene, who advised he saw Wilson walking out of the tree line toward the roadway. He reported that he asked Wilson if he was OK and if he needed to go the hospital, but Wilson told him he didn’t. Instead, he requested a ride to Horseshoe Bay, so the witness took him and dropped him off at the Justice of the Peace Precinct #1 office.

Once making contact with Wilson at the hospital, DPS said they noticed he had bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and smelled of alcohol. Though he denied drinking alcohol and complying to a horizontal gaze nystagmus, he consented to a giving a blood sample.

He was arrested after leaving the hospital, troopers said. DPS believes the crash was caused due to Wilson traveling at an unsafe speed and wet road conditions.

This charge comes after Wilson was accused of official oppression, misuse of official information and aggravated perjury in an incident in which he allegedly deprived a man of his hay bales and threatened to tow his truck away if the man did not give them over to a woman in August 2017.

Wilson was indicted by a grand jury on these charges earlier this month. He turned himself into law enforcement on Oct. 3.

Two officers arrested for OWI after motorcycle crash

Free DUI rides for cops conceal boozing issues

Lake County law enforcement agencies have a problem, and it’s not giving badge brothers of other departments free passes when stopped for alleged DUIs. They have a drinking problem.

News-Sun reporter Emily Coleman detailed earlier this month how some police departments allegedly look the other way when police officers are pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence. We shouldn’t be surprised, because there always has been double standards when it comes to police enforcement. But the drinking should startle us and them.

There are written, legislated, enacted and codified police-power laws for citizens, and there’s the unwritten code of laws for those who serve and protect. We saw that when law enforcement in western Lake County beat the bushes looking for suspects in the 2015 death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz.

His fellow officers were convinced he was murdered, and wouldn’t believe he would take his own life. Turned out he did to hide financial misdeeds, according to Lake County investigators.

That being said, cops have the distinction of seeing some of the worst behavior by some of the worst of our neighbors. For all the good they do, they bear a heavy burden, and they might have a beverage or two to relieve the strain.

That doesn’t excuse furnishing get-out-of-jail-free cards to those fellow officers they pull over. The News-Sun investigative piece pointed out Libertyville police gave a few Waukegan policemen the opportunity to call for a ride home after being stopped on suspicion of driving while drunk.

Certainly, others in Lake County departments have done the same for fellow cops. Most departments have fluid, unwritten policies when dealing with such cop stops.

Law enforcement types do a worthy tango when it comes to trying to explain why this happens — essentially saying citizens sometimes are allowed to do the same thing, leaving the actions to ticket or not to ticket for driving while impaired up to individual officers on the street.

If it were an Average Joe or Jane being caught in one of the DUI checkpoints held during holidays — for which police departments receive state and federal taxpayer-funded grants to deploy officers in order to get besotted motorists off the roads — the scenarios would be different.

Especially at, say, 3 a.m. — prime time to find intoxicated drivers on county roads — when the motorist has imbibed more than double the state’s .08 blood-alcohol level and then gotten behind the wheel.

Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who is running for re-election against Democrat John Idleburg, is one of the law enforcement officials who understands. “When we don’t police our own and we give passes to these people, we endanger the safety of all the other people on the road, and we lose credibility as an institution, as a profession,” the sheriff told reporter Coleman.

What he didn’t say was when off-duty cops drive while intoxicated, they also endanger themselves. Over the years, several police officers across Lake County have died following vehicle crashes involving high volumes of alcohol.

Of the incidents cited in The News-Sun story, none of the officers were referred to certified alcohol intervention programs. One of the patrolmen was required to complete an in-department “alcohol evaluation.”

Perhaps these situations are one-offs, like somebody having too much at the company Christmas party. A lone mistake is made and the driver pays for a good attorney, who usually suggests entering a rehab program with the aim to lessen the blow of losing one’s driving privileges.

But if there is a trend, departments can’t sweep it under the rug, internally protecting those who have boozing-and-driving problems by sending them home in the back of a ride-share service. It then becomes our problem.

Can You Get a DUI in a Self-Driving Car?

Cars that drive itself — it’s no longer fictitious. General Motors, Waymo, and Tesla are just some companies that already have prototypes of self-driving vehicles. It’s just a matter of time before they’re brought to market.

This raises the question of how it will affect DUI laws.

A driving under the influence (DUI) charge has a long-term impact.

It goes on your criminal record and the costly attorney fees and higher insurance rates can severely dent your finances. In theory, a self-driving car should eliminate DUIs. For now, though — hang on to your portable breathalyser. The day you can drink and drive without worrying about the consequences of a DUI hasn’t arrived yet. However — it may be a reality in the near future.

Can You Be Charged With a DUI in a Self-Driving Car?

While tech and auto companies focus on the mechanics of self-driving cars, governments and lawyers are questioning the legal implication. If the definition of a self-driving car means it operates without the intervention of a driver. Surely you cannot be charged with a DUI if you’re riding in a car — but not actually driving it.

The answer, however, isn’t that simple. Fully automated vehicles are not a reality yet. Therefore, in terms of the law, we are navigating unprecedented waters. There is no clear answer at this time.

How Does the Law Define a DUI?

In the United States, the term DUI is commonly used. However, some states use driving while impaired (DWI) — operating while intoxicated (OWI). Operating while visibly impaired (OWVI), and driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII).

While the various terms differ slightly in meaning from state to state. In general, they refer to operating a vehicle while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs.

A DUI charge requires proof that the driver was in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. This includes steering, navigating, accelerating, decelerating, and stopping a vehicle that is in motion.

In a driverless car, an occupant is not doing any of those things.

However, don’t crack open the champagne just yet. It’s not as clear-cut as you think. DUI laws also take into account situations when a car is parked with a driver seated in it. If the car was running, and if the keys were in the ignition even if the car was not switched on.

This means it is possible for an intoxicated occupant of a self-driving car to be charged with a DUI. It also means that the law will have a harder time proving that a person in a self-driving car was in “actual physical control”.

Different Levels of Autonomous Vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles are not new. There are various levels of autonomous cars. Most cars today are semi-autonomous and still require a driver to operate it. Therefore, DUI laws apply to all semi-autonomous vehicles.

The debate around DUIs and self-driving cars arise in the case of fully automated vehicles.

Cars fall into six automation levels — starting at level zero (no automation). Gradually this will be increasing automation capabilities up to level five (full automation). Fully automated cars are not available yet. At this level, the car can drive itself. No human control, steering, brakes, or pedals are required.

A level five car can monitor the road.

These will maneuver and respond to road conditions — and park itself. In a fully automated car, all you’ll need to do is enter your destination and the car will do the rest. Tesla’s Autopilot takes intelligent automation further.

If you don’t tell the car where to go — it will look at your calendar and take you to your next appointment. It can also take you home if there’s nothing in your calendar.

How Are Other Countries Approaching This?

Australia is leading the way on amending driving laws to support automated vehicles. The issue of self-driving cars and DUIs is being hotly debated. The outcome may influence drink-driving laws in other countries.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) in Australia is pushing for DUI legislation to exclude drivers of automated cars. They say drink-driving laws should not apply to a person in a dedicated automated vehicle — as they are not operating the vehicle.

The NTC also argue that allowing a person who has consumed too much alcohol to use an automated vehicle can improve road safety.

As such — it will reduce drunk driving accidents and make the roads safer. They make a good point. It’s much safer for intoxicated people drive home in an automated car than to drive themselves. There’s also no need to call a taxi or Uber when your car can safely transport you home.

The predictions.

It is predicted that fully automated driverless cars will be on the road within the next 10 years. Lawmakers need to prepare for the day they make their arrival. It will also influence other laws, such as seat belt use, having open containers of alcohol in cars. In a world of driverless cars — will we even need a driver’s license? And what will happen to motorcycles?

Man, who drove wife to police station for help during fight, arrested for OWI

A 57-year-old La Crosse man who drove his wife to the police station in search of officers’ help to extricate her from the car ended up in the slammer on an allegation of driving under the influence and two other counts.

The man and his 54-year-old wife were having an argument Friday afternoon when she refused his demand that she get out of the car, according to a police report.

So he drove to La Crosse City Hall, where the police department is located, and asked police to help him get her out of the vehicle, the report said. She told police she didn’t want to because she was afraid he would throw away some belongings she had in the back seat.

The man told police he was trying to get away from her because she was “running her … mouth,” and he was tired of it.

Officers determined that no police action was necessary in the verbal fracas, but one noticed that the man exhibited signs of impairment, a notion he initially rebuffed, according to the report.

The man had trouble following directions for a walking sobriety test, and officers discovered an open container of an intoxicating beverage and drug paraphernalia in the car.

After being arrested, the man became belligerent, and, at one point, said, “Just take me to the … jail.”

Officers granted him that request and took him to the nearby La Crosse County Jail, where he continued to be combative, verbally and physically.

The man’s parting words to an officer leaving the jail were: “I called you!” “I called you.”

He faces charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, having an open container of an alcoholic beverage in a car and possession of drug paraphernalia.