Man faces 28th DWI, push for change from lawmakers

Efforts to change Minnesota DWI laws

EDINA, Minn. -- There's a new push by a couple state lawmakers to change Minnesota's DWI laws after an Otter Tail County man was arrested and charged for a 28th DWI.

Danny Bettcher, 64, has a long history with the law. His latest run-in happened on September 28.

According to a criminal complaint, an off-duty sheriff's deputy spotted Bettcher at the VFW in New York Mills. Knowing Bettcher's history and fearing he would drive, the deputy called authorities. When Bettcher left the VFW, an officer spotted him running a stop sign and swerving on Highway 10. The criminal complaint goes on to say that Bettcher refused to do any field sobriety tests before eventually saying, "I am way over, take me to jail."

Related: MN man arrested for 28th DWI

Bettcher was driving with a valid license. If found guilty, this will make 28 DWI convictions.

"It's shocking on many levels. For me and our family... certainly having kids and having a young driver, you think about those things even more. But it just seems a little outrageous," said Rep. Dario Anselmo, R-Edina.

Since 2004, according to the MN Department of Corrections, Bettcher has spent more than 11 years locked up because of DWI convictions and violations of his release.

Related: How is man still legally driving after 27 DWIs?

Rep. Anselmo wants to crack down on extreme repeat DWI offenders. Minnesota does not permanently ban anyone from driving, as long as they complete the necessary requirements to reinstate their license. Under current Minnesota law, repeat offenders with four or more "qualified prior driving incidents" can have their license reinstated after six years.

"I'm looking to introduce a bill next session and looking to get a hearing on it and have some discussion about trying to see if we can add a higher consequence so that after 5 DWIs, you would actually lose your license and have it be revoked forever," Rep. Anselmo said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 95 people died from drunken driving crashes in 2015.

Other states, like Oregon and New York, already have laws that ban certain serial drunk drivers for life.

"So we're behind on this and it's about time we get caught up," Rep. Anselmo said.

One argument against a lifetime ban is that with restrictions on a license, you can still track them, whereas a ban might not stop them from driving anyway.

"That's true and that's a concern," Rep. Anselmo said. "For me, the bottom line is driving is a privilege and that shouldn't override everyone else's right to safety and their life, quite honestly."

State representative Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, told KARE 11 he also plans on addressing the state's DWI laws in the next legislative session. He did not have any specifics on when a driver would permanently lose his/her license but said legislators will have to come together to make sure a case like Bettcher's doesn't happen again.

The 2018 legislative session is set to begin February 20, 2018. 

© 2017 KARE-TV


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