Repeat drunken drivers frustrate police, courts
Two men with long histories of drunken driving convictions were arrested over the New Year's weekend by Park Rapids police, one for the 12th time, the other for the seventh.
William Lawrence Butcher, 48, Ponsford, has a two-page long rap sheet of alcohol-related offenses. He was arraigned in Hubbard County District Court Monday on his 12th drunken driving arrest.
David Abiel Fraki, 66, Park Rapids, also appeared in the same court proceeding, charged with his 7th DWI offense.
Fraki was arrested in the early morning hours of Jan. 3, when several city and county officers responded to a parking lot altercation.
"The guys were at a fight call at the Eagles and this guy decides to hurry up and get out of there while the guys are handling the fight call, so he sideswipes one of my squads," said Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers, describing the scenario. "And he's got stuff from way back when.
"We also tagged his wife at the same time," Eilers said. "She had a warrant for terroristic threats and assault."
Monica Fraki, 50, was also taken into custody.
Eilers was barely able to contain his frustration at the weekend arrests. Fraki's complaint states he has six prior convictions for DWI.
"So we've got a squad, it's just a mirror and a few things," he said. "But one of the county deputies was walking by the car at the time and had to get out of the way (when Fraki sped out of the parking lot). It's just like, 'What's going on here?'"
Both Eilers and County Attorney Don Dearstyne admitted they are stymied about how to deal with repeat offenders driving under the influence.
You need to "get them in prison to protect the citizens," Dearstyne said. "I mean it's a sad case when they have that many in such a short time because he's not that old," he said of Butcher.
"They're all ordered to get a chemical evaluation, but not all do that," Dearstyne said of DWI defendants.
"We have a number of them that come back into the system on violations of probation because they haven't hooked up with a chemical dependency counselor," he said.
"Those people usually end up killing someone and then they go to jail or they crash and kill themselves," Eilers said. "There's nothing else you can do with 'em.
"That's about all I can say," he said. "They make 'em take (the driver's) test over again, he doesn't pass it and he just continues to drive."
Eilers said Butcher hasn't had a driver's license "since 1981.
"They don't have any insurance, they don't have anything," he added. "They just get in their car and they drive. You can't stop 'em. There's nothing law enforcement can do and nothing certainly that the court can do. It's their right to do it. That's what they do.
"It is sad," the chief said. "You'll forfeit their vehicle but it isn't worth more than a couple hundred bucks so they'll go get another one and just drive down the road."
Butcher faces two counts of First Degree DWI, which each carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and/or a $14,000 fine upon conviction; Driving After Cancellation and Failure to Produce Proof of Insurance.
Fraki faces two counts of Third Degree DWI, because only one of his six prior convictions occurred within the last ten years. Those charges are punishable by a maximum of one year and/or a $3,000 fine upon conviction. He is also facing a Fleeing charge, which carries three years and a day in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, Driving After Cancellation and Leaving the Scene of a Property Damage Accident.
"Based on Mr. Butcher's previous history of 11 DWI offenses, I'd ask the court to impose $100,000" unconditional bond with electronic home monitoring, refraining from alcohol and $70,000 conditional bond with numerous measures in place to keep Butcher alcohol-free and off the roads, asked Assistant Hubbard County Attorney Erika Randall.
Judge Paul Rasmussen imposed the $100,000 unconditional bond, minus the requested conditions, or the $70,000 conditional bond.
"Unconditional is unconditional," he explained to Butcher. But in imposing that unconditional bond, Rasmussen departed from Minnesota Statute 169A.44, which states that defendants charged in felony DWI cases "may be released from detention only if the person agrees to:
(1) abstain from alcohol; and
(2) submit to a program of electronic alcohol monitoring, involving at least daily measurements of the person's alcohol concentration, pending resolution of the charge."
It is unlikely Butcher can post either bond; he indicated he is indigent and in need of court-appointed counsel.
Court records indicate Butcher was arrested three other times in 2009 for drunken driving offenses and a fourth time for drug possession.
He was arrested by Park Rapids police officer Justin Frette minutes before midnight on Dec. 31. The police report indicates Butcher was relieving himself on the roadside of Eureka Road, west of Park Rapids.
Fraki's bond was set at $20,000 unconditional or $10,000 conditional. On the conditional bond he would have to post 10 percent of the amount to insure his presence at future court dates, submit to alcohol testing, refrain from driving and be law abiding.
Randall served him with forfeiture papers to seize his vehicle.
"Alcoholism is a terrible disease," Dearstyne said. "When it affects society by getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle then the state's gotta do something and at least take them out of circulation for awhile."
The state's drunk driving statutes have come under fire after a St. Paul Park man was charged Dec. 28 for his 20th DWI arrest.
Citizen groups are calling for changes in legislation that would put ignition locks on vehicles registered to repeat offenders that would be activated by breath tests before the person climbed behind the wheel.