Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Journal-Sentinel misleads readers

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel once again misleads readers with an inaccurate story about the arrest of a Milwaukee County deputy sheriff for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

The newspaper reported (as it did last month with respect to the arrest of another officer) that the deputy was arrested "on suspicion" of what the newspaper called "drunken driving."

The first problem is that nobody is ever arrested legally in Wisconsin "on suspicion." An officer can't lawfully stop a person temporarily based on mere suspicion.

An officer may temporarily detain a person -- emphasis on the word "temporarily" -- to investigate his or her "reasonable suspicion" that the person is committing, has committed or is about to commit an offense. Almost all traffic stops are based on this higher standard of "reasonable suspicion."

An arrest can only be based on yet another higher standard -- "probable cause" -- and even then there's no such offense as "drunken driving."

The offense is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant, controlled substance, etc. The law does not require someone to be drunk in order to be unlawfully impaired in the operation of a vehicle.

Of course most of us use the phrase "drunk driving" loosely but in a legal sense it has no meaning. The greater error, however, is to say that someone was arrested "on suspicion" as such arrests -- and even temporary detentions -- are clearly illegal.

As for the deputy's conduct, what a piece of work he is.

First, officers are supposed to uphold the law, not break it. Then this moron berates the arresting officer: "You know how many cops I have stopped and let go? Hundreds," he said. "If I saw a car smashed up against the wall and it was a cop, I would let it go, man. You did not have to do this to me."

Yes, he did. It was his duty to do so, period.

3 comments:

Dad29 said...

"You know how many cops I have stopped and let go? Hundreds," he said.

That, alone, is far more damaging than his DUI arrest, or the fact that he lipped off in general.

That tells us what we already suspected: there are two classes of offenders--one of them being the ones who actually pay the fines.

Anonymous said...

Did you bring this to the attention of the editor?

RAG said...

Yes, I E-mailed the reporters involved and the publisher.

So far, no response which says a lot about the integrity of the reporters and, in particular, Martin Kaiser.