When Smart Politicians Say, “Slap The Cuffs On Me Anyway”

Good reporting from KRDO-TV’s Lindsay Watts, working the story of Rep. Laura Bradford’s skirting of a DUI charge because of a state law preventing a legislator’s arrest whole traveling to of from a legislative session or committee hearing. More to the story worth adding:

Backlash continues against a Colorado lawmaker who avoided a possible DUI arrest thanks to the state Constitution. Meanwhile, some legislators question whether Denver Police interpreted the law properly…

It’s still not clear exactly where Bradford was coming from when she was stopped. Gardner said he believed she was coming from dinner.

“I’m not sure this was the proper application of this provision of the Constitution,” said Gardner. “In fact, I think it probably was not.”

Rep. Claire Levy, a Democrat from Boulder, agreed.

“I don’t think the intent was to give us a ‘get out of jail free’ card for anything we do while we’re in session,” said Levy. “I think (police) are over-reading that provision. I don’t think that’s what it says. It says when we’re in session and going to or from a committee hearing.”

And in fact, as Watts goes on to report, there is specific policy in the Denver Police Department Operations Manual that says if police suspect driving under the influence by a legislator “in route,” but no other crime such as an injured party is involved, they are instructed to do what they did for Rep. Bradford Wednesday night–call a cab and make sure the car is legally parked.

Now whether or not you think that’s a correct interpretation of the constitutional “Speech or Debate Clause,” and we would say it probably should not be, the next question is whether or not Rep. Bradford accurately reported to police that she was proceeding directly from a legislative event covered by this clause. Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Sentinel reported that calendared official business for Rep. Bradford was over much earlier in the day–how many hours pass at the bar, or wherever Rep. Bradford was before 10PM on Wednesday, before she is no longer “going to or returning from” a legislative session or committee hearing?

Because there is a bright line that either should exist or needs very much to be redrawn. We would say it’s unanimous that nobody thinks state legislators should walk away from DUIs 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the legislative session–or for that matter, ever.

And politically, that may be all that matters here. As FOX 31 summarized Friday night:

Bradford…stated that she strongly believes she should be held to the same standard as everyone else.

But police say she never said that to them when she was pulled over, [Pols emphasis] or they would have taken her in for a blood or breath test and given her a DUI if that’s what she deserved.

Bottom line: maybe both the Denver Police and Rep. Bradford have some things to be embarrassed about, but only one of them has to stand for election later this year.

13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. thiokuutoo says:

    I thought I heard she was traveling from a fundraiser. POLS is stating bar. I know that some fundraisers end up at a bar or somewhere with a lobbyist or two.  

    A lobbyist calendar might clear that up.

    And, it might come to pass that she has more than a DUI ride home in a cab to worry about.

  2. ohwilleke says:

    was fundamentally a provision based upon the assumption that law enforcement, quite possibly at the direction of the President or Governor as the case might be, would act corruptly for political effect in arresting high profile people.

    We’ve grown up as a nation.  At least at the state and local level, the remedies for improper arrests have grown effective enough that this kind of corruption, while not entirely impossible, has become a remote possibility drawfed by the potential that the speech and debate clause affords for abuse by its beneficiaries.  

    The flip side of the speech and debate clause, which authorizes the state patrol to arrest legislators to compel them to show up to a legislative session, likewise, has no place in modern politics.  If no shows are a problem, there are better tools to deal with the issue.

  3. DavidThi808 says:

    She will go to the city attorney Monday morning and offer a guilty plea for DUI. Getting special treatment is a career ender for a politician.

    And she deserves the punishment. Anyone who drives a car drunk is putting others lives in danger.

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