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‘Hold people accountable:’ Dodge County to post names, photos of OWI offenders on social media

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DODGE COUNTY -- In an effort to combat drunk driving, the Dodge County Sheriff's Office on Friday, August 9 announced offenders names and booking photos will be posted on social media. The sheriff's office says the plan is just one more thing they can do to help save lives but some people feel it's just a form of online shaming.

"It's a culture problem in Wisconsin, in Dodge County," said Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt.

Sheriff Dale Schmidt sees the problem as a never ending battle. He says the county's numbers don't show much of an improvement from 2018.

"We've had 119 impaired driving incidents just for Dodge County," said Sheriff Schmidt.

They are well on track to surpass last year's numbers when deputies responded to over 200 impaired driving incidents.

Dale Schmidt

"We've had nine fatal crashes this year, three of them involving alcohol in some way," said Schmidt.

Sheriff Schmidt announced his office will begin sharing the booking photos of those arrested for drunk driving in Dodge County.

"This is a public record. It is an open record that if anyone would ask for we provide to them," said Shmidt.

In the court of public opinion, several social media comments pointed to the public shaming a person may face.

"I think it could go both ways, it could be used as shaming but I think drunk driving is such a problem in this state it might discourage it a little bit," said a woman from Dodge County.

Those that live in the community are town on how much of a difference the strategy will make.

"I think it will help to a degree, I mean people are still going to do it unfortunately," said a man from Dodge County.

The sheriff insists the new strategy is not meant to humiliate anyone.

"This is not about shaming anyone," Sheriff Schmidt said. "It is about letting the public know we're going to hold people accountable... for putting other people's lives at risk."


The entire release shared by the Dodge County Sheriff's Department can be read below:

Over the last couple of years, we have worked to reduce the amount of crashes that have occurred in Dodge County.  We have had some success in areas, but other areas continue to be problematic.  Working to prevent crashes is a multi-faceted approach and we must constantly work on analyzing our data and our approach in hopes of making an impact.  As a reminder, in 2018 Dodge County had the lowest fatal crash total on record in Dodge County.  Unfortunately, we have seen an increase again this year as we are already at nine fatalities in 2019.  It is crucial that the community and law enforcement continue to work together in an effort to reduce our serious crashes.

As part of our crash reduction efforts, we have focused on a variety of issues including speed, stop sign, OWI, seatbelt and other enforcement initiatives.  We have also implemented signage for speed enforcement zones, social media posts and media releases and other methods to ask for the public’s compliance.  Soon we will be launching another initiative to build on our efforts.

As we all know, impaired driving is a serious problem in Wisconsin.  Currently our laws are written that a 1st offense is not a crime, but rather an ordinance violation.  Second and third offenses are misdemeanor crimes and fourth offense and greater are felony crimes.  There are also enhancers to these offenses if a child under 16 is in the vehicle or if someone is injured or killed in a crash caused by a driver who is impaired.

Since OWI violations continue to be a problem and are a daily danger to the citizens we serve, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office would like to put all potential offenders on notice that we will not tolerate this continued activity.  Our deputies will not give breaks for OWI and those who choose to violate this law will be held accountable.  Furthermore, for those who choose to violate this law, we are going to post on social media all individuals who have been arrested for a violation of this offense.  It is always our hope that we can gain voluntary compliance with the law, but if this choice is made, it will become a public choice.

This disclosure of our OWI arrests is a legal one as it is a public record. For years, we have already released the names of all arrested to the local media via our daily briefings.  It is important to remember that all persons, regardless of an arrest, are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Attached is a sample of what our releases may look like.  This policy will be implemented on a date to be determined, but no later than August 31, 2019.  This advance notice is being given to ensure everyone has ample warning to avoid making a choice that will no doubt be very public.  It is our hope that this effort will save lives so that everyone is able to make it home safely to their families at the end of each day.

Questions may be directed to Sheriff Dale J. Schmidt.

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