Green Bay police officer Tracy Liska was seriously injured on August 4 when she was pulling out of the Kwik Trip parking lot on Lombardi Avenue and her car was hit by a Cadillac.
Prosecutors say 25-year-old Ryan Rivard was behind the wheel of the Cadillac.
According to the criminal complaint, an officer at the scene saw a beer can in Rivard's front passenger seat, smelled "...a strong odor of intoxicants..." on Rivard, and noted that Rivard's "...speech was very slow and somewhat slurred."
Rivard is facing several charges including injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle and his fourth OWI in the last five years. FOX 11 On Special Assignment poured through court records and contacted area police agencies to find our more about Rivard's prior convictions.
Rivard's first OWI came in June of 2008, when he was 20 years old. According to the Marinette County Sheriff's Department, Rivard was stopped for going 75 in a 55 mile per hour zone. The sheriff's department says Rivard's Blood Alcohol Content was .15. The legal limit for drivers 21 and over is .08.
Rivard was fined and his license was revoked.
One year later, in July of 2009, Rivard was picked up by Green Bay police for speeding down Velp Avenue.
According to the criminal complaint, his BAC was .163. That's more than double the legal driving limit.
Rivard was fined again, his license was revoked for one year and he was sentenced to five days in jail.
Less than one year later, in March of 2010, Rivard was arrested again. This time he was arrested for OWI and for hit and run.
According to the criminal complaint in that case, Rivard crashed into a car on Cardinal Lane causing it to rollover. Police say Rivard got out of his car and ran away from the scene. He was arrested a few minutes later. According to the complaint, a blood test later showed Rivard's BAC was .141.
After pleading no contest to the charges, Rivard was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 18 months probation and his license was revoked again.
"Unfortunately, Robert, that kind of a story is not that unusual in Wisconsin," said State Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon. "You do hear of these multiple arrests, multiple convictions and yet, the person continues on with that behavior."
Ott is pushing for stronger drunken driving laws in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Assembly is considering six different bills focused mainly on repeat offenders and drivers with high blood alcohol levels. One bill would make third offense OWI a felony.
"I do understand that, obviously, someone who habitually drives drunk has got probably an addiction problem, a problem they should be dealing with, a problem that they're going to have to deal with. But nevertheless, you've got to do something to change behavior," Ott said.
The effort is getting support from police and even from the tavern league.
"When you see these repeat offenders continuing to put our community, ourselves, our families at risk, it just make you scratch your head. What are we doing wrong?" said Capt. Randy Schultz from the Brown County Sheriff's Department.
"I'm here to tell you that we support these changes," added Barry Fitzgerald, president of the Brown County Tavern League.
But Schultz and Fitzgerald don't agree on what to do with first time offenders. Right now, Wisconsin is the only state where first offense OWI isn't a crime.
"It's just like getting a speeding ticket, basically, much more expensive but it's not a crime and then we wonder why we end up with second, third, fourth, you know, up to tenth," Schultz said.
"We don't support impaired driving of any kind," Fitzgerald said. "But the toughening up should be on the repeat offender."
A committee is holding a public hearing in Madison on Thursday to get input on some of the proposed changes to the state's drunken driving laws. Ott says he knows all six of the bills won't pass. He's hoping some of them do and that stronger laws will lead to safer roads.
Rivard could face up to 12 years in prison if he's convicted of all of the charges against him. His bond was set at $10,000 cash. He's due back in court later this month. FOX 11 contacted Rivard's attorney for comment, but she has not returned our call.
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