Video: MN legislators have immunity from drunk-driving laws?

posted at 12:45 pm on March 19, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

It’s not just DUIs, either, as Concordia professor Jayne Jones told Fox News yesterday, but anything that doesn’t qualify as “treason, felony and breach of the peace,” as noted in Article IV, Section 10 of the state constitution. The clause echoes an identical restriction in the US Constitution in Article I, Section 6. The bar on arrest prevents law enforcement and local authorities from using their power of arrest to interfere with legislative business. But does this go too far in putting legislators above the law, and people in danger?


The issue caught their attention after a police dash cam video surfaced of a state representative getting pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence. Jones said the law exists because, “Back in the 1800s, when our Founding Fathers wrote the constitution, there was a natural fear of political retribution from certain votes and freedoms of speech.”

Thienes said he was “appalled” to find out that there were people who can get a pass for drinking and driving, “especially with all the laws that legislators recently made to make DUIs tougher in Minnesota.”

Jones recalled a student, who had interned for the Minnesota Senate, describe an incident at a legislative reception. According to Jones one of the senators said to the student, “Ride along with me in my car, I can’t get arrested for a DWI.”

I’m not certain that the legitimate fear expressed by the Founders in Article I, Section 6 has no basis in today’s world. We’ve seen local communities pass resolutions calling for national-level politicians to be arrested and tried for crimes, especially George W. Bush during the Iraq War. How difficult is it to predict that some of those same localities might not take advantage of the power of arrest to keep a legislator from casting a vote on a contentious bill — say, perhaps, in Madison last year during the “fleebagger” protests?

On the other hand, Jones has a point about the hypocrisy of a legislature that toughened laws on driving under the influence (and rightly so) while apparently flaunting their immunity from the same law while the part-time legislature is in session. Public safety is a factor, too, as it was in passing those tough laws, and so is the principle of equal treatment under the law. Perhaps the solution to this would be to amend the state constitution to include driving under the influence so that legislators understand that they can’t simply claim immunity from arrest while arguably endangering other Minnesotans on the roads.

What do you think? Take the poll:


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Well, when you get gassed on 3 beers….

Lightweight.

JimboHoffa on March 19, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Laws for thee but not for me. Liberals would not have it any other way.

pat on March 19, 2012 at 12:51 PM

It’s not just DUIs, either, as Concordia professor Jayne Jones told Fox News yesterday, but anything that doesn’t qualify as “treason, felony and breach of the peace”…

DUI isn’t a felony in Minnesota?

Fabozz on March 19, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Our representative form of government was supposed to be based on them serving at our behest, and in our best interest.

The reality is – that their goal is for us to serve them, and that they are to be treated differently than we are – because the Master has always faired better than the Servants.

Sit down and shut up, and let us lord over you.

OhEssYouCowboys on March 19, 2012 at 12:52 PM

And when one of these jerks kills somebody while under the influence, do they get a free pass as well?

Like Ted the Swimmer.

fogw on March 19, 2012 at 12:54 PM

Stop paying the Congressmen, take away their perks, and lock their assets in blind trust when they get elected for the office. Make it back into a public service rather than fiefdom.

Archivarix on March 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM

The Constitution just says they can’t be arrested, not that they’re immune. Doesn’t mean the DA can’t file charges against them based on the evidence at some later date, does it?

Socratease on March 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM

Don’t expand police powers, but instead make dash cams available for release to the public. Let the dash cam videos become campaign commercials.

DFCtomm on March 19, 2012 at 12:57 PM

DUI isn’t a felony in Minnesota?

Fabozz on March 19, 2012 at 12:52 PM

I believe that, like Wisconsin, A fourth DUI is a felony.
Full disclosure: I have 2 but have been sober for nearly two years. It is a fight against an insidious enemy.

JimboHoffa on March 19, 2012 at 12:58 PM

This is why Congress critters can never be trusted. Laws are for the ‘little people’, insider trading, vote your own pay raise for wasting other people’s money, etc, ect. Yup, a noble profession being a politician!!

Bob in VA on March 19, 2012 at 12:59 PM

*facepalm*

At least force them to use diplomatic license plates, to give the public fair warning to get off the sidewalks.

Christien on March 19, 2012 at 12:59 PM

The Constitution just says they can’t be arrested, not that they’re immune. Doesn’t mean the DA can’t file charges against them based on the evidence at some later date, does it?

Socratease on March 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM

Due process places a statute of limitations on filing charges, so in affect that answer is no.

SWalker on March 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM

I believe that, like Wisconsin, A fourth DUI is a felony.
Full disclosure: I have 2 but have been sober for nearly two years. It is a fight against an insidious enemy.

JimboHoffa on March 19, 2012 at 12:58 PM

I’m praying for you. Keep fighting that fight.

Bitter Clinger on March 19, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Equip their vehicles with ignition interlocks, which of course will force them to resort to designated passengers.

Christien on March 19, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Oh!?…I thought that was true nationally…the masses have laws..and they have priviledges!

KOOLAID2 on March 19, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Good luck paying off that $151,440 debt (4 years of Concordia) with that worthless Poli Sci degree, sport.

MNHawk on March 19, 2012 at 1:04 PM

JimboHoffa on March 19, 2012 at 12:58 PM

..good for you JH…keep it up!

KOOLAID2 on March 19, 2012 at 1:07 PM

Good luck paying off that $151,440 debt (4 years of Concordia) with that worthless Poli Sci degree, sport.

MNHawk on March 19, 2012 at 1:04 PM

Shouldn’t you be out in the fields or promoting liberty or something?

KeninCT on March 19, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Has the MN constitutional langauge been tested in court? It is not a stretch to assume that an intoxicated state senator behind the wheel should be arrested for “breach of the peace”–a vague and undefined offense if there ever was one. You don’t need to amend the constitution to get the drunks off the road, you just need a cop with the guts to do it.

The real reason they don’t get arrested is that the state police know they would get their budgets cut in half the following session.

2ndMAW68 on March 19, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Is this a “Guess That Party” moment?

I didn’t even see the name of the guy in the story.

iurockhead on March 19, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Kennedy Necessary and Proper Clause.

hillsoftx on March 19, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Sec. 10. PRIVILEGE FROM ARREST. The members of each house in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace, shall be privileged from arrest during the session of their respective houses and in going to or returning from the same.

I don’t understand people that are voting for “No, public safety and/or equal justice is too important”.

The importance of public safety is a great reason to amend the MN constitution, but the language of the law is quite clear and should be upheld as written until amended.

I don’t want state judges determining on their own that public safety is too important to uphold the language of a constitution. If public safety truly is too important, then an amendment should be easy to get.

blink on March 19, 2012 at 12:59 PM

So is not a DUI a “breach of peace” or is there some further clarification of what that means (seems pretty ambiguous)? Weaving down the road, speeding, reckless driving – not a breach of peace? The law, as written, seems to have enough wiggle room in it to charge these scofflaws. Amending the law would make it explicit, but then how many exceptions do we add. Law by exception is not a very good way to legislate. And would any such amendment even get out of committee? So I say interpret the law as written as broadly as you can and let this guy defend himself.

BillyWilly on March 19, 2012 at 1:15 PM

This is the state that elected Jesse Ventura, Amy Klobuchar, and Al Franken. They thought Garrison Keillor was funny.

Except for the Powerline guys (and Ed, up until he sipped the Santorum Kool Aid and went all numb-brained), the state is an insane asylum. Expecting a rational decision out of them is like talking to a rock and expecting it to talk back.

Adjoran on March 19, 2012 at 1:17 PM

*facepalm*
At least force them to use diplomatic license plates, to give the public fair warning to get off the sidewalks.
Christien on March 19, 2012 at 12:59 PM

This should be called the “Ted Kennedy Law”.

whatcat on March 19, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Archivarix on March 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM

+1

Best comment of the thread.

uhangtight on March 19, 2012 at 1:19 PM

Thats like getting away with murder.

jaboba on March 19, 2012 at 1:20 PM

This is the state that elected Jesse Ventura, Amy Klobuchar, and Al Franken. They thought Garrison Keillor was funny.
Except for the Powerline guys (and Ed, up until he sipped the Santorum Kool Aid and went all numb-brained), the state is an insane asylum. Expecting a rational decision out of them is like talking to a rock and expecting it to talk back.
Adjoran on March 19, 2012 at 1:17 PM

There are only a few across the board conservatives (a la Bachmann) in Minnesota. Most GOPers are of the one-issue stripe, e.g. strongly pro-life but soft in other areas.

whatcat on March 19, 2012 at 1:23 PM

I wonder how Laura Bush got away with murdering that boy on a Texas highway? Maybe it was a law like this!

KeninCT on March 19, 2012 at 1:25 PM

There are good reasons for this, as Ed notes, but remember that union goons are immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed as long as that violence is in support of greedy union objectives.

“United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396 (1973) is a controversial U.S. Supreme Court case which held that violence, if carried out in furtherance of a labor union’s objectives, does not violate the law according to the extortion and robbery provisions of the federal anti-Racketeering Act of 1934 or the Hobbs Act.”

I find that slightly more outrageous.

slickwillie2001 on March 19, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Shouldn’t you be out in the fields or promoting liberty or something?

KeninCT on March 19, 2012 at 1:10 PM

You know boy, I bet this guy could harness the power of that degree and become the official Rutherford B Hayes historian of the Democrat Party. I hear there’s need of one, at least when giving speeches outside of rooms full of Poli Sci retards at various colleges.

Thanks for the inspiration, chumplett!

MNHawk on March 19, 2012 at 1:30 PM

DUI isn’t a felony in Minnesota?

Fabozz on March 19, 2012 at 12:52 PM

A first (and probably second) DUI isn’t a felony in most places. Common law felony meant you were subject to over one year of imprisonment. I doubt any state has a law that subjects a first-time DUI offender to that kind of sentence.

JDF123 on March 19, 2012 at 1:32 PM

The inequities in our criminal injustice system continue to rear their ugly heads. However, this does explain the Trayvon Martin situation. Clearly Zimmerman is a crypto state legislator.

libfreeordie on March 19, 2012 at 1:33 PM

wonder how Laura Bush got away with murdering that boy on a Texas highway? Maybe it was a law like this!

KeninCT on March 19, 2012 at 1:25 PM

I can name a famous Democrat who allowed a woman to suffocate in a car off a Massachussetts bridge and was never aquitted. Your point? So, if you pass a law that all should follow, then the legislators themselves are culpable. However, it is the bullsh#t, frivilous accusations from activists that cause the neccessity of law immunities.

So what’s your viewpoint? Am I to assume only one party affiliation be charged for perceived crime violations?

Turtle317 on March 19, 2012 at 1:34 PM

This is the same state that allowed its state police to put truck drivers out of service because their ashtray was full. A full ashtray was proof that you where tired. Thanks to OIDDA they had to stop that. Makes MN the poster chid for “No Justice for you.” Maybe not as bad as MA and CA but give them time. They are trying to catch up.

RickinNH on March 19, 2012 at 1:47 PM

I don’t always drink beer . . .

Oh wait, yes I do.

NoDonkey on March 19, 2012 at 1:58 PM

I believe that, like Wisconsin, A fourth DUI is a felony.
Full disclosure: I have 2 but have been sober for nearly two years. It is a fight against an insidious enemy.

JimboHoffa on March 19, 2012 at 12:58 PM

Run for a state office in MN. Legal problem solved….Now for your personal problems, good luck

Bevan on March 19, 2012 at 2:05 PM

A first (and probably second) DUI isn’t a felony in most places. Common law felony meant you were subject to over one year of imprisonment. I doubt any state has a law that subjects a first-time DUI offender to that kind of sentence.

But how does the officer in the field know that the particular drunk swerving around in front of him isn’t a third-time offender? It’s like saying that a Minnesota legislator can’t be arrested sauntering out of a store with the cash register because hey, for all the officer knows, the register only had $999 in it, making it misdemeanor petty theft.

A DUI is a crime that, depending on the circumstances, can be a felony. Therefore a Minnesota officer has the right to arrest legislators in the act of committing such a crime, at least until any exculpatory circumstances can be fully determined. 2ndMAW68′s right, this is the cronyism-slash-CYA, not some grand constitutional loophole.

Fabozz on March 19, 2012 at 2:14 PM

Article I, Section 6 covers legislative business, not everyday life. I have no idea what Minnesota’s constitution says, but if it is modeled after the federal constitution I would assume this immunity only applies when these jerk offs are actually at work.

NotCoach on March 19, 2012 at 2:19 PM

In Arizona, a DUI can be a FELONY. It’s called IIRC “Severe DUI.” And it’s when your BAC is more than 1.5 times the legal limit. Legal limit in Arizona is 0.08. Severe DUI Felony= BAC 0.12 or above.

Raquel Pinkbullet on March 19, 2012 at 2:20 PM

Actually now that I think about it Nevada has a similar law. But it’s not charged as Felony, but a Gross Misdemeanor.

Raquel Pinkbullet on March 19, 2012 at 2:24 PM

blink on March 19, 2012 at 12:59 PM

All they need to do is get rid of, “going to or returning from the same” portion. That is where all of the abuse of this provision will occur.

NotCoach on March 19, 2012 at 2:30 PM

Not voting on the poll because the proper question is not there. It is stupid to amend a constitution to include only DUIs as an exception to the rule. Include all crimes while not actually seated for legislative business. You don’t have to be drunk to run people over while on your way to work.

NotCoach on March 19, 2012 at 2:34 PM

NotCoach on March 19, 2012 at 2:19 PM

I guess I am mistaken and the Minnesota provision just about exactly mirrors the federal provision. I guess our federal jerk offs are immune while coming and going.

NotCoach on March 19, 2012 at 2:39 PM

If he was a black man he would have been beaten or shot to death….the evil and double standards we live with.

0bamaderangementsyndrom on March 19, 2012 at 2:41 PM

I’m still waiting for a law that says “Congress shall be subject to the same laws that it passes for everyone else.”

GarandFan on March 19, 2012 at 2:42 PM

“They hide behind the laws they make for all of us”…- Ozzy Osbourne, Bark @ the Moon

garnkikaloid on March 19, 2012 at 2:49 PM

0bamaderangementsyndrom on March 19, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Apparently very few blacks are ever stopped for DUI violations since beatings and shooting of black motorists (or any motorists) is almost nonexistent, and your incredibly intelligent addition to this thread informs us we must believe that all blacks stopped for DUIs are beaten or shot.

While not written in any constitution I am aware of, I think it is still quite obvious regardless: Leftists are immune to intelligence and honesty.

NotCoach on March 19, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Thanks for the inspiration, chumplett!

MNHawk on March 19, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Your love of liberty is all the inspiration you need. You are a flyover hero!

KeninCT on March 19, 2012 at 2:51 PM

This is why I no longer use the term “Congress Critters”. Congress Critters reminds me of Elly May Clampett down by the cement pond, with her cute and cuddly critters in hand – all warm and fuzzy. There is nothing warm and fuzzy about this crop of legislators that seem bound and determined to ruin this great country.

I prefer the term Congress Vermin.

Roderick Spode on March 19, 2012 at 2:56 PM

“All animals are equal…just some are more equal than others…”

BadMojo on March 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM

If he was a black man he would have been beaten or shot to death….the evil and double standards we live with.

0bamaderangementsyndrom on March 19, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Boy, this is Minnesota we’re talking about – not Zimbabwe.

CorporatePiggy on March 19, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Officials at all levels of government represent the greatest concentration of boozers, drunks and chronic DUI candidates in the country. Lobbiests line up to get these weak willed,dim bulbs comatose. I had the less than unique opportunity to watch St. Ted Kennedy thrown puking drunk from a Alexandria pub. Sweet, though he may have impacted the melon if subsequent behvior is an indication. But alas, no legal conseqnence. Guess they figured just a Kennedy in it’s natural state. Great to be better than the rest of us. Lawmakeres (an breakers) figured that out.

StevC on March 19, 2012 at 3:17 PM

This is probably news to several MN legislators who have been convicted of DWI over the past several years.

jpmn on March 19, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Endemic.

mickytx on March 19, 2012 at 3:55 PM

While it seems stupid on it’s face, has no one here ever thought about how easy it would be for state troopers/St. Paul police to trump up charges to prevent legislators from being present to vote on critical issues? Even if dismissed later, the tipping vote might be cooling it’s heels in the local lock-up.

That said, they shouldn’t get a pass. Arrest, no. Charges and possible conviction in the future, yes.

MTinMN on March 19, 2012 at 4:20 PM

How about amend the consitution so that the drunk legislator is driven immediately to the House/Senate chamber and not allowed to leave until they blow 0.0 BAC. (And make sure the cameras as running as they try to stay upright in their seat.) That solves the public safety problem, and also ensures that this can’t be used as an excuse to keep someone from voting on a bill.

acasilaco on March 19, 2012 at 4:45 PM

depends on how you define “session” and “breach of the peace”. Reads like session means convened, since there is reference to travel to and from. Otherwise travel sounds like it would have been inclusive to “session” if that was concurrent.

but whatever, laws don’t mean crap anymore, merely guidelines to be nudged and fudged.

John Kettlewell on March 19, 2012 at 5:19 PM

I wonder how Laura Bush got away with murdering that boy on a Texas highway? Maybe it was a law like this!

KeninCT on March 19, 2012 at 1:25 PM

I do believe you are the most loathesome troll at the site these days. And would be in the running for HA’s all time most loathesome.

And I’ve been here since the beginning, and have seen some real weasels.

If this was my site I would pound you into the dirt with the ban-hammer.

You’re beneath contempt.

soundingboard on March 19, 2012 at 5:58 PM

While it seems stupid on it’s face, has no one here ever thought about how easy it would be for state troopers/St. Paul police to trump up charges to prevent legislators from being present to vote on critical issues? Even if dismissed later, the tipping vote might be cooling it’s heels in the local lock-up.
MTinMN on March 19, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Although the idea of locking up politicians so they can’t legislate sounds like a big plus to me, heh, votes have been recorded electronically for a long time. Wouldn’t seem to be a huge problem for them to be able to poke out a “Yea” or “Nay” on a mobile device if they are detained by unforeseen circumstances. That adjustment would seem to fix the issue you brought. (Of course, then you’d have “Voting While Drunk”, but that just may be an improvement.)

whatcat on March 19, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Full disclosure: I have 2 but have been sober for nearly two years. It is a fight against an insidious enemy.

JimboHoffa on March 19, 2012 at 12:58 PM

Hang in there. It’s an enemy that can be beaten. Or at least kept at bay.
Eleven years and three months into it myself.

(btw: It never gets any easier.)

Solaratov on March 19, 2012 at 9:26 PM

2ndMAW68 on March 19, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Make DUIs felonies, and define weaving, etc, as a breach of the peace.

GWB on March 20, 2012 at 10:17 AM

(Of course, then you’d have “Voting While Drunk”, but that just may be an improvement.)

whatcat on March 19, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Could they really do any worse? Hell, they might be drunk enough to screw up and actually help someone!

runawayyyy on March 20, 2012 at 11:16 AM

I wonder how Laura Bush got away with murdering that boy on a Texas highway? Maybe it was a law like this!

KeninCT on March 19, 2012 at 1:25 PM

So, a 17-year-old girl accidentally killing one of her own friends in a tragic highway accident is “murder”; and somehow this “cancels out” an adult elected official driving while drunk — with the concomitant significant probability of causing a fatal accident, which, fortunately, he did not –

clearly, we could all save a lot of time and effort and money by just amending the Constitution so that only conservatives or Republicans are subject to prosecution for every possible transgression of the law.

AesopFan on March 20, 2012 at 12:06 PM