Apparently, legislators in Minnesota cannot be arrested when the legislature is in session unless they commit treason, a felony, or breach of peace.
“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.”
The news articles (there were three: Kare11, West Central Tribune, and Fox*) I read explained the purpose of this part (Article IV, Section 10) of the MN Constitution very well – it was meant to prevent opponents from keeping legislators from voting by falsely accusing or, in the case of police officers, arresting a legislator for something minor.
The result of this part of the Constitution in today’s world is that legislators cannot be arrested for DWI while the legislature is in session.
This “immunity” has resulted in a disregard for the safety of others by some legislators. No names are named in the news, and we don’t know how many MN state senators and representatives are disgusting enough to use this part of their constitution to prevent the consequences of drunk driving, but it’s enough to know that some of our state legislators think it’s okay to drive drunk as long as they can’t get in trouble for it.
Thankfully, some political science students at Concordia University have brought this to the attention of the public. There is now a bill in the House to make DWI considered breach of the peace. The Concordia University students have played a major role is this bill.
“. . .as legislators continue to strengthen penalties and tighten laws for drunken driving, they should be subject to the consequences as well, the students argued.”
Some quotes from the articles:
First, about legislators and DWIs:
It is unclear if legislators have used their protection to avoid drunken driving arrests.
“To our knowledge, state troopers have never encountered a situation where this provision was invoked,” said Bruce Gordon, Public Safety Department spokesman.
Second, about eyewitness accounts of legislators driving under the influence:
Jones said she even witnessed a clearly drunken legislator last year bragging about his immunity from DWI arrests in a St. Paul bar last year.
“We watched him actually walk out of the pub, get in his truck and drive home and he could barely stand up,” Jones recalled. “When he was leaving and I was outraged.”
She described the event to her political science students at Concordia, who volunteered another disturbing example. They said a fellow student who interned at the Capitol went out for dinner with a group that included two senators.
“When it was time to leave the Kelly Inn, one of the senator said she could drive because she had immunity,” Concordia senior Taylor Gittens explained.
“The senator ended up hitting a median on the way home, and the student intern was very frightened and upset.”
*I don’t recommend Fox’s article. It’s not very complete.