Smashed: The toll of driving drunk in Minnesota

One face, one case: Willie Herman Davis

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 7, 2010 - 5:37 PM

Willie Herman Davis, 45, Woodbury

Latest incident: About 2:30 a.m. on March 14, 2009, on First Street in Hudson, Wis.

Hennepin County public defender Willie Davis, who had picked up four DWI convictions in Minnesota since 2000, recently earned eight months in a Wisconsin jail after police caught him driving drunk again last year in Hudson.

Police stopped Davis for going 37 miles per hour in a 25-mph zone. The police officer noticed that Davis seemed drunk after the attorney got out of his black Mercury Mountaineer and told the officer that "he could not go to jail." Davis failed a field sobriety test and a breath test revealed a 0.17 percent blood alcohol level, more than twice the legal limit. Davis refused to provide a blood sample, so police took him to a hospital for a forced draw, as allowed under Wisconsin law.

Status: Taking into account his prior DWIs in Minnesota, Davis was convicted in January of felony drunken driving in St. Croix County. Most of his eight-month sentence could be converted to work release later this month. The incident also triggered a violation of Davis' probation for a 2007 DWI conviction and could cost him another 2 1/2 years in jail or prison and a six-month suspension of his law practice. Wisconsin officials recommended that his Minnesota driver's license be revoked for 2 1/2 years.

History: Davis was convicted of drunken driving in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007. His fourth DWI arrest took place on the St. Croix River when he capsized a personal watercraft, dumping himself and a passenger into the river. They were rescued by Washington County deputies. Davis was sentenced to six months in jail for the 2007 conviction, but he was allowed to serve it by spending 30 days each year in a work release program through 2012. To avoid a 6-month suspension of his law license, Davis was required to refrain from using alcohol, submit to random urinalysis testing and attend Alcoholics Anonymous for seven years.

JANE FRIEDMANN

  • about this series

  • In Minnesota, drunken drivers who kill someone with their car sometimes get less time behind bars than nonviolent offenders. Public safety advocates say it's part of a culture of forgiveness surrounding drunken driving, a social problem that killed 893 people on Minnesota roads in the past five years. Read the Star Tribune's in-depth look at the scourge of drunken driving, the victims it claims and the public safety questions it raises.

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