Legislator Immunity From DUI Challenged

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on May 6th, 2009

A few weeks ago, based upon a tip from a reader I posted about an item in the Denver Police Department Operation Manual which essentially instructed officers not to arrest state legislators for drunk driving.  See Legislators Vote Themselves Exempt From DUI Arrrest.


205.07.  Violations by Colorado Legislators.

(4)  In the absence of felony violations, should an officer have reason to believe a legislator is driving under the influence, the officer may 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 


This was based upon a little-known provision of the state constitution which gave limited immunity from arrest for misdemeanors to legislators. 

Apparently, someone read the post.  In yesterday’s news:
 

DUI Loophole: State Legislators Exempt

Denver, CO.  May 4 — 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.

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…


"Who will guard the guardians?"
 

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