The most prolific drunken driver in Minnesota history, with 28 arrests, won’t be adding to that infamous tally for at least the next two-plus years.
Danny Lee Bettcher will be in prison until well into 2020 for his latest conviction for driving while intoxicated.
Bettcher, 65, was sentenced last week by Otter Tail County District Judge Waldemar B. Senyk to a 4½-year term after pleading guilty to felony drunken driving on Sept. 28 after leaving a VFW hall in his hometown of New York Mills.
With credit for time served since his arrest, Bettcher will serve the first 2⅔ years or so in prison and the balance on supervised release. He also must abide by a long list of conditions for five years after leaving prison. Those include completing a chemical abuse assessment, providing authorities with a DNA sample and never possessing a firearm.
County Attorney Jake Thomason said Thursday that the sentence fell within state guidelines and was “a pretty reasonable punishment” given Bettcher’s age and the fact he took responsibility by pleading guilty.
Bettcher’s criminal history already included spending four years in prison for a prior drunken driving offense, and he’s been ordered to treatment at least a dozen times. At an Otter Tail County court hearing in 2010 for arrest No. 27, the on-and-off construction worker and handyman said, “I drink to get drunk.”
At the time of his 28th DWI, Bettcher had a valid driver’s license despite spending much of the past 10 years in and out of jails and prison for drinking and driving. There is no circumstance under which the state can take away someone’s license for life.
Some legislators are attempting to add Minnesota to the handful of states that permanently ban drivers from being licensed after several DWI convictions.
Rep. Dario Anselmo, R-Edina, proposes lifetime revocation after five drunken driving offenses. He said, “Someone’s privilege to drive doesn’t trump everyone else’s right to live.”