According to a recent news report by Fox News, the Minnesota Legislature will vote this week whether to invalidate lawmakers’ immunity from DWI prosecution. There are currently 201 Minnesota legislators carrying a “privileged from arrest” card that bears the signature of the Secretary of State at the front and has a print of the Minnesota Constitution’s Article IV, Section 10 at the back. This card serves as a certification that the lawmaker carrying it is privileged from the arrest of certain crimes.
The purpose of this provision (which was written in the 1850s) was to protect the congressional members of Minnesota from being arrested or prosecuted based on their political views. As this particular legislation, includes immunity of the house members from DWI arrest and prosecution, students are trying to strip this DWI immunity.
The State Constitution states that the lawmakers can only face prosecution for treason, felony and breach of peace. A legal loophole allowing legislature members of Minnesota to drive while impaired without fear of prosecution or arrest is now being challenged by Republicans. The State Republicans seek to add Driving While Impaired to the list of crimes which will allow the lawmakers to be arrested or prosecuted when committing any DWI violations even when they are heading to or return from the Statehouse.
Students behind effort to strip the lawmakers’ DWI immunity
According to the report, local university students led by their political science professor, decided to make an effort to change the “Privilege from Arrest” legislation as their Minnesota Legislature course’s spring project since they could not find any DWI arrest of current Minnesota legislators on record during House sessions. Realizing that the Constitution can only be changed by the voters, they seek a statute which would finally include DWI in the “breach of peace” term that’s already used in the legislation without the need to change the constitution itself.
To further emphasize the disadvantage of the lawmakers’ immunity to a DWI charge in Minnesota, the professor revealed that a drunk state senator once offered a student who was interning in the Minnesota Senate a ride. The senator said she couldn’t get arrested for a DWI offense and hit the road’s median as she drove away. The professor also expressed disgust that any U.S. citizen can get arrested for DWI but lawmakers can’t be prosecuted or arrested just because they’re in session (considering that they are in session to be able to help people and not to do them any harm). Another student was disappointed upon learning that the legislators are allowed to drink and drive even though they were the ones making the DWI laws in Minnesota tougher.
The university professor also commented that they have done their research and that they know what they’re talking about in response to the negative feedback from most people who believe that they’re just trying to make a name for themselves by trying to push the removal of the lawmakers’ DWI immunity. The immunity bill legislation which is sponsored by Republicans Rep. John Kriesel and Sen. Mike Parry will get its first hearing this Thursday in the House.
Possible abuse of the “Privilege from Arrest” legislation
It should be made clear that there are no names of current legislators who have violated the DWI laws in the news, and there is no mention of the numbers of Minnesota State Senators and Representatives who have used this part of Minnesota Constitution just to prevent DWI arrest. However, it is enough for the public to know that there are lawmakers, whether in the state of Minnesota or in other states, who think that it’s alright to drive while impaired because they’re holding the “Privileged from Arrest” card or because they’re immune from arrest, which is the primary reason why this legislation has been challenged.
Regular People Don’t Have Immunity
Regular people don’t have immunity from a DWI charge and hence if they get charged with DWI in Minneapolis, St. Paul or anywhere else in Minnesota they will need the services of a good Twin Cities DWI Lawyer. Douglas T Kans of Kans Law Firm is an DWI lawyer who has 17 years experience fighting DWI charges. You can contact Kans Law Firm at (952) 835-6314 for a free consultation.