Most wouldn’t even have had to read past the story headline last week to be shocked: Minnesota man charged with 28th DWI

    Most wouldn’t even have had to read past the story headline last week to be shocked: Minnesota man charged with 28th DWI

    After all, what additional information do you need to further enhance your amazement? What specific details contained in the actual story could possibly be more astounding that the simple fact that a single individual had managed to have 28 driving while intoxicated charges and/or convictions on his record?

    Well, turns out, glad you asked. Because, in the third paragraph detailing the extreme drinking and driving woes of 64-year-old Danny Lee Bettcher of New York Mills, there was this infinitely more stunning nugget: Bettcher had a “valid yet restricted” driver’s license when he was pulled over on U.S. Highway 10, where he reportedly was swerving while meandering along at an estimated 10 to 15 miles per hour.

    So what does it mean to have a “valid yet restricted” driver’s license when you’re driving around with 27 DWIs on your record? Well, according to the legal definition of possessing such a license in an instance such as this, your license is valid as long as you don’t drink alcohol and then drive. At that point, the law states, your valid license becomes invalid.

    Now, it would be easy to simply focus on Bettcher’s situation and be sad for his obvious alcoholism and/or angry at him for his extremely irresponsible behavior that’s put countless other people at risk over the years. After all, Bettcher didn’t hide his misdeeds, drinking at a VFW even though he was obviously well known to law enforcement. An off-duty deputy at the VFW at the time was alerted and called Bettcher in when he left and hopped in his car. After all, Bettcher said when pulled over that he was “way over” the legal BAC limit for drinking and driving and told the officer to take him to jail. After all, when in court for his 27th DWI in 2010, Bettcher said he drinks “to get drunk.”

    But this situation is so illogical and makes no sense whatsoever for reasons that extend far beyond Bettcher’s sorry situation.

    Everyone talks about making DWI laws and punishments stricter and more severe, but the cracks people like Bettcher can slip through are more like canyons. He’d already done a four-year stint in prison for a previous DWI, and had been ordered to undergo treatment dozens of times, which he’d obviously either blown off repeatedly, or “successfully” completed but obviously failed to quit drinking...and driving, of course.

    It’s kind of pointless to argue this in a way that specifically focuses on the “valid license” Bettcher somehow possessed, because people like Bettcher, if they have access to a vehicle, are probably just going to keep on driving even if they don’t have a license. But that doesn’t mean people like Bettcher should ever, EVER be able to possess a valid driver’s license. But Minnesota has no law on the books that takes away someone’s license for life, so law enforcement has to deal with people like Bettcher repeatedly, and the public is put at risk by Bettcher’s behavior, repeatedly.

    So that takes us back to the punishment. If you have 27 DWIs, you should be in prison for a long time. If Bettcher been caught with marijuana a couple times during his previous two dozen-plus arrests, you can bet he’d been locked up for much longer. But people who drink alcohol and drive over and over and over, they get endless second chances. And third. And fourth. And in Bettcher’s case, a 27th chance.