Louisville, KY- Lawmakers craft and pass laws, so does that mean they should be immune to laws they make? One Kentucky lawmaker thinks so and is doing his best to get out of his DUI charges.
Republican State Senator Brandon Smith claims that, according to a provision in Kentucky’s constitution, he has immunity and is asking his DUI charges be dropped, according to the Lexington Herald. Section 43 of the state’s constitution states that, with the exception of treason or felony, members of the General Assembly are “privileged from arrest during their attendance on the sessions of their respective Houses.”
Smith was arrested on January 6th, the first day of Kentucky’s legislative session, around 9 p.m. An officer observed him driving 65 mph in a 45 mph zone and pulled him over. In his report, the officer noted that Smith smelled strongly of alcohol, which he blamed on some previous passengers. So, not only was Smith driving while intoxicated, he was speeding and doubled his chances of hurting other motorists.
Smith failed several sobriety tests and a .088 blood alcohol level was recorded on his preliminary blood test. But Smith refused to submit to a chemical test which is considered more accurate. He was charged with first offense DUI with aggravating circumstances.
Smith’s DUI attorney insists that since his client was arrested after attending a legislative session he is immune from his DUI charges and filed motion to dismiss. And a judge actually decided to hear Smith’s challenge and delayed his DUI case to consider the motion.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, also a Republican, said the law doesn’t not apply to Smith’s DUI arrest.
“No member of the General Assembly is above the law,” Stivers said, according to the Huffington Post. “While Kentucky’s Constitution does provide for a limited form of legislative immunity, as does the United States Constitution and most state constitutions, it is clear that the immunity does not apply in this situation.”
Of course, in 1891, when this provision was adopted, cars were just a thought in someone’s imagination so lawmakers could have never anticipated the public safety issue that is drunken driving. Drunk driving laws are in place because this reckless behavior puts people in danger. Thousands of people are killed or injured by drunken drivers each year.
Stephen Voss, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky, explained to the WKYT that when Section 43 was added to the state constitution people would take drastic measures to prevent a lawmaker from voting including arrest. So it appears the intent of this section is to the prevent someone for wrongfully arresting a lawmaker because they don’t like the way they vote.
Not holding a Smith accountable would set a bad example, and give others the impression that driving under the influence is not really that serious of a charge. It’s that viewpoint that leads to thousands of unnecessary deaths and injuries every year. Smith should act like a grown up and take responsibility for his actions; he’s a lawmaker so he no doubt has access to some of the best DUI lawyers on the state.
Whether your a law maker or just a regular citizen, having an experienced law firm such as Leader & Leader, P.A. to represent you is a wise decision.