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Bayfield police chief faces drunken-driving charge

Bayfield's police chief is dealing with his own brush with the law following an arrest for drunken driving after the Wisconsin State Patrol noticed his vehicle going north in the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 51 in Lincoln County.

Bayfield's police chief is dealing with his own brush with the law following an arrest for drunken driving after the Wisconsin State Patrol noticed his vehicle going north in the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 51 in Lincoln County.

The State Patrol said that 60-year-old Ellis Casper was arrested about 9 p.m. Sept. 18. A preliminary breath test indicated his blood-alcohol content was 0.14 percent, the State Patrol said. The legal limit to drive is 0.08 percent.

Casper was not taken into custody but received a ticket for "first-offense drunken driving." The next morning, the leader of the three-person police force contacted Bayfield Mayor Larry MacDonald.

"He was very apologetic to me," MacDonald said, adding he considers Casper, who remains on the job, a fine chief.

"At this point ... I would intend not to ask for dismissal," MacDonald said. "But ... we're dealing with the City Council on this issue. I would expect there will be some kind of reprimand."

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The arrest is expected to be brought up at the next council meeting in early October.

Casper's alleged incident came a day after the state Assembly unanimously voted to strengthen Wisconsin's notoriously lax drunken driving laws, though a first-time drunken-driving offense still would merit only a traffic ticket. The bill would make the fourth offense a felony, instead of the fifth offense as is current law. It also would make a first offense a crime if someone under age 16 is in the car.

Gov. Jim Doyle has yet to sign the bill and said he would like to see it stronger yet.

Wisconsin and North Dakota are the only states where drunken driving isn't a felony until the fifth offense, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Earlier this week, a member of the Assembly that passed the bill was nabbed for what would be his second operating while intoxicated offense in 10 months if convicted.

On Wednesday, 40-year-old Rep. Jeff Wood, I-Bloomer, was arrested near Wausau on suspicion of operating while intoxicated after a motorist reported he was swerving from lane to lane and nearly hit a guard rail, the State Patrol said.

Wood told police he had taken six prescription pills of an anxiety drug -- double the prescribed dosage -- and two doses of cough syrup, the police report said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Topics: BAYFIELDCRIMEPOLICE
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