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Most notorious drunken driver in Minn. with 28 DWI arrests sent to prison again

Danny Bettcher. Submitted photo

Editor's Note: This story is from February 15, 2018.

FERGUS FALLS, Minn.— Minnesota’s most notorious drunken driver --  arrested for DWI  for what police say is 28 times -- is again in a state prison.

New York Mills construction worker Danny Lee Bettcher, 65, last week was sent to the St. Cloud state prison for 4.5 years for his latest felony conviction for refusing to submit to a DWI test. The DWI charge was dismissed in hi Otter Tail County District Court appearance.

Bettcher, who has gone by many aliases over the years and has been in and out of jails, had a valid state driver's license when he was arrested on the charges last September after leaving the VFW in New York Mills, a small town east of Detroit Lakes along U.S. Highway 10.

In the complaint submitted by law enforcement, Bettcher is said to have been noticed consuming an alcoholic beverage and displaying signs of intoxication at the VFW by an off-duty Otter Tail County deputy. The report said the deputy was familiar with Bettcher and aware his license included a restriction for alcoholic beverages.

An officer with the New York Mills Police Department then witnessed Bettcher fail to stop for a stop sign near Highway 10 before continuing on at a speed of 10 mph and swerving across the roadway, according to court documents. During the ensuing traffic stop, authorities say that Bettcher "repeatedly attempted to hand over his health card before finally handing over his wallet" when asked to produce his driver's license.

Once out of his vehicle, the complaint goes on to say that Bettcher refused to participate in field sobriety tests, as instructed by officers, before finally telling deputies, "I am way over, take me to jail." Bettcher allegedly refused a breath test once more while in custody, saying, "no" and "nope, all nos, period."

The complaint concludes, explaining that Bettcher, "has a long history of driving while impaired convictions," and was most recently charged with first-degree DWI on January 14, 2010. 

In court on Feb. 5, the charge of first-degree driving while intoxicated was dismissed, but he was convicted on the charge of first-degree refusal to submit to DWI testing.

With credit for the 131 days served since his arrest and other factors, Bettcher could be out of prison in about 3 years.

But upon release, he faces a long list of restrictions placed upon him by the court. Documents say he must not possess or drink alcohol and faces random testing, a lifetime firearms ban and a chemical assessment with orders to follow recommendations of that evaluation. When he gets out of prison, he would be on supervised release for five years.

As for the issue of Bettcher still having a valid license, state Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, who represents New York Mills, said she isn't familiar with Bettcher or legislation being proposed by some of her colleagues to add lifetime driver's license bans for those with multiple DUIs.

Currently, Minnesota has no law that can ban a person from having a driver's license for life.

Franson said she would certainly support some type of legislation, but wanted to look into it further.

One legislative plan calls for a lifetime ban after five convictions, but Franson said that sounded rather generous. "I think they should have a learned a lesson after one or two," she said.

But she also said that people can be rehabilitated. She was at a conference Thursday night addressing the issue of employers who give criminals a second chance. "They (criminals) can find the Lord," she said.

Bettcher got his license this last time by completing numerous financial and alcohol treatment requirements. Apparently, the treatment didn't work.

The Fergus Falls Daily Journal contributed to this report