As Rachel E. Stassen-Berger reports for the Star Tribune, a group of college students in Minnesota have proposed a bill – which now has some support in the legislature in that state – that would eliminate legislative immunity for lawmakers accused of drunk driving while the legislature is in session.
Many states have had a history of some form of legislative immunity, including Maryland. Legislative immunity started in the “struggles between the English Crown and Parliament,” wrote the author of a legal treatise on immunity, where in one case a king passed a death sentence on a lawmaker for his bringing a bill to lower how much the royal household spent.
Legislators have been known to joke about “free passes,” but in some places arrested legislators have actually demanded their free pass. In Arizona, for example, just last year one lawmaker demanded that the cops take off his cuffs after he got arrested for a domestic violence incident, and in Georgia one lawmaker was arrested for DWI but tried get his free pass by citing his legislative immunity.
One Minnesota state legislator, referring to the college students’ bill, said, “I don’t think any political person is above the law when it comes to breaking the law. I can’t think of one legislator that wouldn’t be willing to vote for this.”