Danny Lee Bettcher of New York Mills, Minnesota, has been arrested for driving under the influence for the 28th time. Yes, that’s correct, 28th time.
This past week, an off-duty police officer spotted Bettcher drinking at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post. The off-duty officer notified authorities after he saw Bettcher leave the VFW post in his vehicle.
Authorities caught up with Bettcher and pulled him over after he ignored a stop sign and drove onto the highway at 10 mph while swerving. According to officers, Bettcher had bloodshot eyes and a beer can was located behind the passenger’s seat.
“I am way over. Take me to jail,” Bettcher told police after refusing to take a sobriety test, according to the criminal complaint.
According to Assistant County Attorney, Jacob Thomason, Bettcher could be sentenced up to seven years in prison.
Although Bettcher’s license was valid at the time of the arrest, it included “a restriction that any use of alcohol or drugs invalidates the license,” state Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Leonard told the Star Tribune.
As of last week, a revocation of Bettcher’s license was pending.
Bettcher, who attributes his alcoholism to post-traumatic stress disorder following his military service, has already served four years behind bars for other DUI convictions and has been ordered to go to treatment at least 12 times.
So what would it have taken for Bettcher to have his license permanently revoked had he been in California?
The California license suspension can be rather complicated. Suffice it to say, on a first time DUI, a person faces a six-month suspension assuming the driver was over the age of 21, there was no refusal of the chemical test, and there were no injuries as a result of the DUI. You can read my previous posts about the nuances of a first-time DUI license suspension.
If, however, a person suffers a DUI and they have previously been convicted of a DUI within the past 10 years, then the suspension increases significantly.
A second DUI will trigger a two-year suspension and a third DUI will trigger a three-year suspension. If a driver suffers a fourth DUI within 10 years, they are facing a four-year suspension, but they may also be deemed a “habitual traffic offender” and can have their license revoked permanently.
Although Bettcher’s 27th DUI arrest occurred in 2010, it’s unclear whether any of his previous DUI’s occurred within a 10-year window.
I’m no mathematician, but at 64-years-old, as Bettcher was, I can’t imagine that the convictions could have been spaced out such that he would have been able to avoid the habitual traffic offender status and permanent revocation here in California.