Man's avoidable hit-and-run death shows why Minnesota needs lifetime DWI bans

The driver who allegedly killed Joshua Jones had five previous DWIs.

A hit-and-run last week claimed the life of 21-year-old Joshua Jones and saw the suspected driver, Bruce Basswood held on felony charges.

The criminal complaint against Basswood alleges he was drunk and fled the scene.

Not only that, but the Star Tribune reports that Basswood had previously been convicted of DWI five times, as well as six times of driving with a canceled license.


– How is a man with 27 DWIs still able to drive in Minnesota?

He was allegedly driving with a canceled license when involved in the fatal hit-and-run that killed Jones, of Ponsford, Minnesota.

This case once again throws the spotlight on Minnesota's lenient drunk-driving laws.

DWI laws in Minnesota

In Basswood's case, it appears as though having his license canceled didn't stop him from allegedly driving – and driving drunk – but there are still many others out on our roads who are legally allowed to drive despite multiple DWI convictions.

The state of Minnesota does ban people from driving for DWI offenses, but they start out as short as 30 days for a first offense (with a guilty plea), and if you've been caught driving drunk on dozens of occasions you can still get your license back.

If you commit a driving felony like criminal vehicular homicide (which Basswood has been charged with) three times in the space of a decade, the longest your license will be canceled for is 10 years.

We reported in October how Minnesota's laws still allow for a man with 27 DWIs to stay on the roads once he'd served license ban periods and fulfilled a few rehab requirements.

For the protection of all the law-abiding drivers in the state, there's an argument to be made for lifetime bans, ensuring the worst DWI offenders are not allowed back on our roads, period.

Alcohol-related deaths up in 2017

Recent drunk-driving death numbers make an argument that Minnesota needs stiffer penalties for DWI offenders.

Of the 348 deaths on Minnesota roads in 2017, more than a quarter of them – 98 – were alcohol-related.

This was the highest number since 2011, despite 2017 being the safest year on Minnesota roads since 1943.

That said, drunk-driving is reducing as a trend, according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) statistics, which shows DWI arrests fell 40 percent between 2006-15.

Repeat offending was also declining, with 16 percent of first-time DWI offenders reoffending within two years, compared to 21 percent in 2000.

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DWI deaths, arrests down in Minnesota

The annual late-summer enforcement campaign is yielding fewer drunken-driving arrests this year and the number of fatal crashes involving alcohol is continuing a five-year decline, state officials say. Over the past two weekends, 605 drunken drivers were arrested as part of a statewide DWI enforcement campaign. During a similar summer's-end crackdown last year, there were 1,787 arrests over three weekends culminating on Labor Day.