New bill toughens up Minnesota's DWI laws – but only slightly

It would introduce lifetime revocation for 5th time offenders.

A new bill introduced in the Minnesota Legislature would impose stricter penalties on drivers who have been convicted five times of DWI.

The proposal by Rep. Dario Anselmo (R-Edina) would see a driver have their license revoked for life following their fifth offense – currently they get a 6-year ban.

However, these drivers will still be able to petition a court to get their license back after 10 years if they can prove they've changed their ways and pose no threat to public safety, the bill says.

Anselmo said his bill would institute stricter policies on repeat offenders but still leave a little light at the end of the tunnel for those who've rehabilitated themselves.

The focus on the most prolific DWI offenders comes after the case of Danny Bettcher, who last fall was arrested with his 28th DWI.

What the bill doesn't include

Despite a lifetime ban for five-time offenders (that's very likely to be permanent, pending a court hearing), the bill doesn't make any changes to first, second, third or even four-time DWI lawbreakers.

It would keep the current punishment for first-time offenders at a 90-day ban, which can be reduced to 30 days with a guilty plea.

Nor does the bill include any stricter punishments for those who continue to drive despite serving a ban for DWI, as was the case of a fatal hit-and-run last month in which a 21 year old was killed by a driver who was allegedly drunk and had a canceled license.

But Rep. Anselmo notes that prolific offenders pose the greater threat on Minnesota's roads, and hopes the prospect of a lifetime ban is enough to deter future drunk-drivers.

He says that by the time they've committed their fifth offense they've gone through a suite of punishments that clearly haven't had the desired effect.

"If you have five or more convictions, the state should not be granting these individuals the privilege of a license. We all want a chance for people to turn their life around and get clean, and the state offers a number of chances along the way,” Rep. Anselmo said.

Of the 348 people who died on Minnesota roads in 2017, 98 were involved in crashes that were alcohol-related.

That said, the Star Tribune says DWI offenses have been receding for the past decade, falling 40 percent in the last 10 years.

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