McHENRY, Ill. (CBS) — After losing her son to a crash with a drunken driver, an Illinois woman is fighting a loophole in Wisconsin law that allowed the driver to keep his license for more than a year.
CBS 2’s Megan Hickey is always investigating, and on Monday, she dug into the problem – and how it’s impacting victims and their families across the Midwest.
On June 10, 2018, Sheila Lockwood opened the door to her McHenry home to find police officers.
“They said, ‘We’re really sorry – it’s your son, Austin,’” Lockwood said.
Her 23-year-old son had been killed in crash in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. The 21-year-old behind the wheel, Eric Labahn of Mount Prospect, refused to take a blood alcohol test at the scene.
“There was no concern about Austin in the vehicle at all,” Lockwood said.
A test hours later put Labahn well over the legal limit, and he was charged with a drunken-driving related homicide.
But it wasn’t until several months after Lockwood had buried her son that she made a shocking discovery via pictures on social media. There was Labahn, standing next to a car he was driving.
“He’s still got his license,” Lockwood said.
According the Illinois Secretary of State, Labahn surrendered his Illinois license soon after the crash and moved to Wisconsin. That move made all the difference.
CBS 2 looked into it. Wisconsin drivers who refuse a blood alcohol test get a year-long license suspension – but there’s a hitch. Labahn first has a right to a hearing on his suspension.
Since it’s tied to a pending homicide case, that hearing still hasn’t happened.
“You’re giving the criminal back the weapon that he used to kill my son,” Lockwood said, “because at the moment he got behind the wheel of that vehicle while he was intoxicated, that became a weapon.”
The Illinois office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said it is well aware of the disparities between the states.
“Wisconsin’s laws in general are very, very lax,” said Karen Suggs, Victim Services Specialist at MADD. “It’s not treated the way that it should be treated. I mean essentially, this is murder.”
For that reason, Lockwood and MADD are currently pushing lawmakers to close the loophole Wisconsin and then push for mandatory minimum sentences across the country.
“I think he’s helping me, giving me strength,” Lockwood said of the sons he lost. “I want to make him proud.”
CBS 2 reached out to Labahn’s legal team for comment. So far, there has been no response.
On Friday, Labahn pleaded “no contest” to the charge of homicide by intoxicated driving.