This past week, 64-year-old Danny Bettcher was charged with driving while impaired (DWI) in Otter Tail County, Minnesota.
It was the 28th time he has been charged with DWI dating back to 1980, of which 24 happened here and 4 in North Dakota.
Yet at the time of his 28th alleged infraction, Bettcher still held a valid driver's license. This begs the question, how in the heck is this man still allowed to legally operate a vehicle in the state of Minnesota?
The answer? Because Minnesota lets him.
Twin Cities attorney Marsh Halberg told KARE 11 this week that Minnesota is one of the states that doesn't have a lifetime ban for driver's licenses.
Bettcher's infractions have been so regular that he has even served time for drunken driving.
As the Star Tribune notes, he's spent four years in prison for felony DWI, and been ordered to treatment on more than a dozen occasions.
But state law allows him to get back his license even if his offenses are so frequent/serious that his license gets "canceled and denied," the Minnesota Department of Public Safety told GoMN
Someone who has three DWIs in 10 years, four DWIs in total, or commits a felony driving offense while under the influence, can still get their license back once they've served their ban provided they complete the following requirements:
• Following recommendations in a chemical use assessment.
• Successfully completing chemical dependency treatment.
• Meeting other requirements such as having insurance, paying fees, passing knowledge and DWI tests, etc.
Bettcher's current driver's license carried a "no alcohol/drugs" restriction on it, meaning that it could be canceled if he's found to be impaired by alcohol or drugs during the commission of ANY offense, not just driving violations.
But in Bettcher's most recent alleged infraction, this restriction appears to have had little effect.
Minnesota DWI laws are pretty lenient
As mentioned earlier, Minnesota has no lifetime ban for driving licenses, and the driving bans for DWI offenses can be described as lenient as best.
Here's a table showing what you need to do to get your license revoked or canceled.
A first offense comes with a ban of just 90 days – which you can reduce to a mere 30 days provided you plead guilty.
With license revocation, which can go up to 2 years in length, drivers have to pass the license exam, reapply for their license and pay fees to be able to drive again when the ban is over.
Things get more serious after the 3rd offense in 10 years, 4th on record, or you injure someone while drunk-driving. In these cases, licenses get "canceled and denied," which requires the rehabilitation treatments mentioned above before you can get it back.
Nonetheless, even if you kill THREE people during a 10-year period while under the influence of alcohol, the longest your license will be canceled for is 10 years (albeit, you'll probably be in prison).
You can find a summary of Minnesota's DWI laws here.
DWI dangers in Minnesota
In Minnesota last year there were 397 fatalities on state roads, and alcohol was a contributing factor in a quarter – around 100 – of these.
WalletHub has Minnesota as being one of the more lenient states for DWI offenses, saying it has the 27th strictest laws in the country.
Arizona is one of the strictest in the country, with first-time offenders getting a mandatory jail sentence of at least 10 days, and their licenses revoked for a period ranging from 90 days to a year, according to FindLaw.
Things are stricter in other countries. In the U.K. for example, any drink-driving offense – even refusing a breath/blood test – carries a mandatory minimum 1-year ban.
The ban for first offenders can be as high as 3 years, depending on the severity of their offense.