Minnesota license flap has staying power

  • Article by: JAMES ELI SHIFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 6, 2010 - 4:08 PM

He moved to California in 1981, but a DWI fine is badgering him now. The case is so old Minnesota doesn't have complete records of it but wants the fine: $680.

David Keagy, an unemployed winery manager in northern California, has been looking for work, but he dreads the moment a would-be employer will ask about his driver's license. Keagy doesn't have one right now, and it has nothing to do with any recent driving trouble.

Instead, the state of California wouldn't renew his license in December because his Minnesota driver's license was revoked.

In 1984.

Keagy was flabbergasted. He had moved from Minnesota to California in 1981, and had renewed his license in California several times since. Never before did anyone bring up anything about his license status in Minnesota. When he contacted Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services this year, Keagy was told he had failed to resolve a fine from a drunken driving case.

Keagy could get his license back if he paid $680 to the state of Minnesota. Or if he wants the state of Minnesota to believe his story that the record is wrong, he would have to prove exactly where he was on June 24, 1983.

"The harshest thing about all of this is, how do I find this out 27 years later?" he said. "I don't even remember what I had for lunch last week."

The case is so old that the agency doesn't have the records on the traffic stop anymore, so officials can't even tell Keagy where the arrest took place.

Kris Chapin, a spokeswoman for Driver and Vehicle Services, said the state of California found out about the old Minnesota revocation while complying with a federal directive to check with other state motor vehicle agencies when people apply for licenses.

Minnesota began participating in the information exchange at least 22 years ago, but states weren't required to review license files in other jurisdictions until 1999.

"California refuses to issue a license to a driver who is not valid in any other states," Chapin said in an e-mail. "Since his license is revoked in Minnesota for an unresolved DUI, he is not being permitted to be licensed in California, it appears."

"The Driver and Vehicle Services Division can't just remove such things as an unpaid DWI fine and license revocation from a driver's record once it is entered there -- it would not protect public safety," Chapin wrote.

Keagy, 53, graduated from Minnetonka High School in 1975 but left the state six years later after a failing marriage. His second daughter was born in August 1983, so he's convinced he was nowhere near Minnesota in the months prior to that.

At the time, the Minnesota driver's office sent a "notice of revocation" to Keagy, and when it wasn't returned by the post office, the agency assumed that it had been properly delivered, according to Chapin. Keagy said he was told it was sent to a Minneapolis address where he has never lived. He figures the real offender was someone using his name.

"This whole thing is ludicrous as hell," he said. "The thing that kills me, I've been voting, paying taxes and living here all this time," yet the state of Minnesota never found him to pay the fine.

Last week, Keagy learned that he can request an "administrative review" in which he can make his case in writing for the action to be rescinded. Otherwise, he can take the state to court, or pay the fine to make it all go away. Right now, the latter two approaches are not possible. "We're all broke," he said.

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