A 64-year-old western Minnesota man has been caught for the 28th time driving while intoxicated, according to prosecutors, adding to what likely is a record that state authorities have long attributed to him.
Danny Lee Bettcher, of New York Mills, was charged in Otter Tail County District Court last week with felony-level drunken driving and refusing to submit to a preliminary breath test.
Bettcher, who had a valid yet restricted driver's license at the time of his arrest, remains jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail ahead of an Oct. 30 court appearance.
Assistant County Attorney Jacob Thomason said Tuesday that if convicted this time around, the maximum sentence is seven years, with the first two-thirds spent in prison and the balance on supervised release. Bettcher would then serve another five years on probation.
Bettcher's criminal history already includes spending four years in prison for a prior drunken driving offense, and he's been ordered to treatment at least a dozen times.
While appearing in an Otter Tail courtroom in 2010 for his 27th arrest, a record for a Minnesotan at the time, the on-and-off construction worker and handyman said, "I drink to get drunk."
Bettcher's 28th arrest came Thursday soon after he left the VFW in New York Mills, where he had been drinking. He's also been caught driving drunk in Nebraska and North Dakota.
According to the criminal complaint:
An off-duty sheriff's deputy was in the VFW and saw Bettcher drinking. Bettcher's reputation for driving drunk is "well known to the law enforcement community," read the charging document, which listed numerous aliases for the defendant.
The deputy alerted authorities that Bettcher was leaving the VFW in a car. Bettcher ignored a stop sign and drove about 10 to 15 miles per hour on Hwy. 10 and was swerving.
He made it another 200 yards before police pulled him over. Bettcher's eyes were bloodshot and watery. A beer can was spotted behind the passenger seat.
The officer asked for Bettcher's driver's license. He produced a health identification card. The officer located Bettcher's license and noted that it restricted him from drinking and driving.
Bettcher refused to conduct a field sobriety test and had to put his hands on the squad car to steady himself.
"I am way over," he said. "Take me to jail."
State Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Leonard confirmed that Bettcher had a valid driver's license at the time of his arrest, and that it included "a restriction that any use of alcohol or drugs invalidates the license." As of Tuesday, a move to revoke his license is pending.
A telephone message was left with Bettcher's attorney seeking a response to the latest allegations.
In one court filing from a previous conviction that he made challenging fines he owed the court, Bettcher revealed that he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in connection with his military service.
"I'm trying to get my life back on track before I am released," read the filing, written from prison in 2014.