Danny Bettcher may still be a drunk driving accident waiting to happen and there are many people in New York Mills, Minnesota who know this.
You see, Bettcher has had 27 drinking and driving convictions. It is believed he has more than anyone in the state and that is why he is so unforgettable amongst many of the people in town, including the police officers that arrested him and the prosecutors that prosecuted him. There are even local activists that remember him who are working hard to curb drunk driving behavior that leads to injuries and even death of innocent people.
In October, Bettcher became a free man after serving more than three years behind bars for his latest drunk driving conviction. Since he declined an interview with the press, it is not clear what his plans are from here. Unfortunately, this is a man who is a symbol of how the state can't seem to keep chronic drunk driving offenders from getting back behind the wheel.
Many activists are convinced that he will get behind the wheel again.
As a result of Bettcher's actions, the 59-year-old has spent more than just a few years behind bars. He has served a year here and there, three months, six months, and whatever sentence he would be handed. He would do his time and offend again. Many of these sentences date back to the 1980s and he didn't pay very harsh consequences then because the laws of the 80s only made a DWI a felony if someone was injured or killed. This did not change until 2002 when the fourth offense in a 10 year period would be classified as a felony. Bettcher received two convictions within that time period.
So far, Bettcher has not hurt or killed anyone while drinking and driving, but that could be a matter of time.
His latest conviction is the result of a May 2009 incident when a police officer saw Bettcher run a stop sign on his motorcycle. The report states that Bettcher failed his field sobriety tests and had a blood alcohol concentration that was more than twice the legal limit of .08. He even urinated in his pants prior to being pulled over.
Prosecutor Heather Brandborg says that Bettcher is someone who has failed out of alcohol treatment a number of times. After his latest arrest, Bettcher told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he didn't want to look weak, so he didn't complete his treatment in prison.
While there are measures that the state can put in place, such as impoundment of his vehicle or an interlock device that would require a sober breath sample before the car will even start, offenders like Bettcher will find another vehicle to drive. Even though he has no license or insurance, he finds ways to offend anyway.
Moorhead judge, Lisa Borgen, said that the best thing that can be done is hand out a lengthy prison sentence and hope for the best. The maximum allowed for a DWI is 7 years.
She said once a person serves the maximum sentence, there is not a thing that can be done. She acknowledges that it is impossible to keep these individuals from drinking and driving if they choose to do so.
Fortunately, Bettcher is under the watchful eye of local authorities. The police know who he is, so they will be looking out for him.