05-06-2009, 03:55 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Southern California
DUI loophole:CO legislators exempt.
DENVER (CBS4) ―
It's a case of preferential treatment embedded in both the Colorado Constitution and the Denver Police Department Operations Manual: Colorado legislators are immune from being arrested for Driving Under the Influence.
A CBS4 investigation found the unusual law and DPD regulation, codes that took the state director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving by surprise.
"So I don't see why we should treat legislators different than normal people," said spokeswoman Emily Tompkins. "So it's time to clean that up. It absolutely sends the wrong message that those writing the laws we have to stand by are exempt from them."
Section 205.07 of the Denver Police Operations Manual guides officers on "Violations by Colorado Legislators." It says that if a lawmaker is driving under the influence and there is an accident with serious injuries or a fatality, the legislator should be arrested and processed for felony DUI.
But if there is no felony involved, the manual directs officers to "cite for a violation which caused an accident or was the reason for a traffic stop. For the safety and welfare of the public and the legislator, the officer will arrange for other transportation for the legislator and his/her vehicle will be parked and locked."
In other words, the officer can cite the legislator for whatever led to the stop, but not for an actual DUI, and the legislator should then be given a ride.
"But no one should be driving impaired and no one should be exempt from the laws that are there to protect the public," Tompkins said.
Eric Brown, a spokesman for Mayor John Hickenlooper's office, told CBS4 that at the request of the Denver Police Department, the City Attorney's Office recently reviewed this section of the police operations manual but recommended the thrust of the section not be changed. Brown said city attorneys believe that since the guideline was in line with the Colorado Constitution, it should not be altered.
The state constitution goes even further than the Denver police manual. Under "Privileges of Members," the state document says "the members of the general assembly shall, in all cases except treason or felony, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the sessions of their respective houses, or any committees thereof, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either house, or any committees thereof, they shall not be questioned in any other place."
"I'd probably rework that," said Rep. Paul Weissmann, the House Majority Leader.
After reviewing the constitutional passage, Weissmann determined that it dated back more than 100 years, and was put in place to make sure police could not interfere with a vote in the legislature by arresting a member who might be on their way to cast a crucial vote.
But the effort to keep the legislative branch free of the judicial branch might need some tinkering, according to Weissmann.
"If you're breaking the law somewhere, there is a reason for you to be detained," said Weissmann. "You should be dealt with like any other citizen; you should not get a pass based on this constitutional provision. It makes us sound special, which we shouldn't be. If we are in violation of the law, especially laws we write, we should be in the same boat where we have to abide by them."
Weissmann suggested the issue should be brought up for debate with an eye toward possibly amending the constitution.