DRESSER, Wis. (KMSP) - More than a million people will be arrested for drunk driving in the U.S. this year—and Ryan Haass will not be one of them.
Haass is the police chief in the Village of Dresser, a small town in northwestern Wisconsin with a population of 895.
On Sunday, Feb. 11 after leaving the Tippy Canoes bar in Osceola, Wis., Haass drove off the road and abandoned his car in a ditch. He left the scene of the accident and later claimed he continued drinking at home.
Surveillance video from the bar in Osceola, obtained by the FOX 9 Investigators, shows Haass spent the afternoon drinking, consuming at least three beers and four Long Island iced teas.
In leaving the scene of the accident and later refusing a field sobriety test, Haass employed techniques used to frustrate law enforcement trying to arrest drunk drivers.
“It’s something that’s common,” said Osceola Police Chief Ron Pedrys. “It’s very frustrating.”
AN AFTERNOON OF LONG ISLANDS
Surveillance video from Tippy Canoes shows Haas and a friend walking into the Osceola bar around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. They had their first beer about 3:05 p.m.
Fifteen minutes later, the bartender served another Spotted Cow and Surly, with a third round 28 minutes after that. But Chief Haass, who was off duty at the time, was just getting warmed up.
At 4:13 p.m., the men switch to cocktails--Long Island iced teas, to be exact.
The Fox 9 Investigators obtained surveillance video from the Osceola Police Department that shows the bartender pouring five different kinds of booze. The bar told Fox 9 the ingredients in their Long Island iced teas include vodka, gin, tequila, brandy, and triple sec.
At 4:37 p.m., a second round of Long Islands was served.
Twenty-six minutes after that, Haass’ friend switched back to beer while the chief ordered a third Long Island iced tea. Again, the video shows the bartender pouring the booze.
A new bartender comes on duty as Haass gets his fourth Long Island iced tea.
By the time they settled their tabs and start walking out, Haass had consumed three beers and four Long Island Ice Teas over the course of three hours.
Haass left Tipsy Canoes around 6:00 p.m., but he did not get far. According to police, he drove his vehicle off the road and deep into a ditch then walked away from the scene.
He ended up at his home in Osceola, less than a mile away. How he got there is unclear, but Osceola Police came to the residence nearly three hours later.
The Fox 9 Investigators tried to talk to the Chief at the Dresser City Offices but he would not comment and said, “Have a good day.”
OFFICER CONFRONTS THE CHIEF AT HOME
After the accident, Haass called a tow truck and said he would leave his keys in the vehicle. The tow truck driver was suspicious about the circumstances and called police.
According to the police report, Haass claimed “a deer jumped out in front of him, he swerved and went into the ditch.”
But at his home, the officer noticed the off-duty Chief had “very bloodshot and glossy eyes,” and that his “speech was very slurred.” He “struggled to put on his shoes,” and “almost lost his balance several times.”
Haass admitted to the officer he started drinking around noon that Sunday at another bar in Osceola, PY’S, before Tippy Canoes.
Haass said he had only four drinks altogether but added that he “continued drinking when he got home.”
Nowhere in the police report did it say that Haass is a police officer.
When the officer asked Haass what he was drinking, he said, “Hey, stop there. I know why you are asking these questions and I’m not saying any more.”
When the officer asked Haas to perform a field sobriety test, he refused and said, “What is the point? I will not perform the test. Now what are you going to do?”
Osceola Police Chief Ron Pedrys was monitoring the situation that night and told Fox 9 that without a field sobriety test, the officer did not have probable cause to arrest Haass.
“Before any arrest, you need probable cause, but unfortunately in this case probable cause was difficult for several reasons,” Pedrys said. “We can’t force him to come out of his house to take a field sobriety test. We can’t force anyone to take a field sobriety test.”
Haass was not arrested and never brought to the police station to take a blood, breath or urine test, which would have determined his blood alcohol level.
Under Wisconsin’s Operating While Intoxicated law, or OWI, that test must be given within three hours of Haass driving. It’s two hours in Minnesota.
By the time Osceola police showed up at Chief Haass’ door, it was 8:45 p.m., nearly three hours after he left the bar.
Haass could simply claim he was drinking at home and that is what pushed him over the legal limit for driving.
A ‘COME TO JESUS’ MOMENT
Bob Speeter is a Minnesota defense attorney who specializes in drunk driving cases.
“I don’t recall ever having video of my clients having seven drinks,” he said. “That would be a come to Jesus moment.”
It is, however, hardly the first time he has heard of someone leaving the scene of an accident or getting into trouble with Long Island iced teas.
“These can run three to five drinks in a Long Island iced tea, or if it’s pour straight like it’s supposed to, it’s two drinks," he said. “It’s fair to say there’s a general consensus under any prosecutors and defense attorneys that four Long Island iced teas would put someone over the legal limit."
Even without a blood test, the defense attorney believes prosecutors could have charged Haass with drunk driving based on the video alone.
Police learned about the Tippy Canoes video that night, but the second bartender told them Haass had only two drinks--which may have been all she saw. A copy of the video was given to police a couple days later.
Osceola Police admit they never counted the drinks on the video as Fox 9 did.
Pedrys said the district attorney told him a charge based on just the video and officer’s observations alone would have never stuck.
Instead, four days later, an officer issued two tickets to Haass: failure to report an accident and failure to maintain control of vehicle.
Haass wasted no time paying the $449 fine.
“Although we don’t have a chemical test and don’t know that Mr. Haass was legally intoxicated, it’s still an incredibly frustrating situation not to be able to deal with one way or another,” Pedrys said.
'PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW'
The situation is more than frustrating to Jon Cummings of Minnesotans for Safe Driving.
After looking at the bar video, Cummings said, “I’m surprised he can walk at all.”
Cummings believes this is a case of a police officer using legal loopholes to his own advantage.
“When they do that, who are they serving and protecting?" he said. "He’s serving him, and protecting him. This video is damning and if the law can’t do something, people should know about this.”
Fox 9 called the members of the Village Board in Dresser, but no one called back.
Wisconsin is the only state in the nation where a first drunk driving charge is not a criminal offense--it's simply considered a traffic offense.
It is unclear how a charge or an OWI conviction would have affected Haass’ job status.