DFL Rep. Rick Hansen argues on behalf of DWI immunity for lawmakers, cites constitution

RickHansen.jpg
Rep. Rick Hansen
:::: UPDATE :::: Legislators trying to kill bill that would rescind their DWI immunity, backer says

You might think subtly tweaking the way DWI is defined in order to strip legislators of their immunity from drunk driving arrests would be a no-brainer for Minnesota lawmakers. You'd be wrong.

THE BACKSTORY: Push renewed to strip legislators of DWI immunity

During the first hearing about a bill to that effect last week, two DFL lawmakers voted against it -- Rep. Rick Hansen, D-South St. Paul, and Rep. Michael Nelson, D-Brooklyn Park.

Their nay votes weren't enough to derail the bill, which passed through the Government Operations Committee on an 11-2 vote. But the arguments made during the hearing by Hansen embody a line of thinking the Concordia University students pushing the measure will have to address during future hearings, starting this Thursday with the House Public Safety Committee.

Hansen asked students, "Is there any evidence of a legislator using the immunity card for any arrest?" Students couldn't cite specific examples. That task, of course, is complicated by the fact that there'd be no public record of a legislator whipping out their "get out of jail free" card to escape arrest.

Referring to Hansen's question, Jayne Jones, the Concordia professor helping students with their effort, told us he's "asking the impossible."

She said she's received at least two unconfirmed reports of Minnesota legislators using the state constitution's immunity clause to escape DWI arrest since 2012, and her students have been calling law enforcement officials throughout the state in hopes of gathering additional evidence.

After a student replied to Hansen's question by saying she'd "heard stories" about legislators using their immunity card, he replied, "I think everything you just said is hearsay."

"You haven't provided any evidence that anyone has used the card," Hansen continued. "I think that any member who attempted to use it would probably be forfeiting their office in shame."

Hansen also alluded to a constitutional argument in favor of preserving legislators' immunity.

"I am more of a constitutionalist... Our forefathers put this in the constitution for a reason," he said. "I think when we deal with fundamental rights to define what a 'breach of the peace' is, if we go back 225 years or if we look around the world at other legislative bodies, what happens [with] any change based on conjecture or hearsay rather than actual evidence?"

"I do not condone drunk driving but I don't think there's the evidence that's there, so that's my rationale," Hansen concluded.

It should be mentioned the bill in question doesn't change the state constitution, but instead reclassifies DWI as a "breach of the peace" and thereby strips legislators of their immunity from that type of arrest while the legislature is in session.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.

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56 comments
ron.fresquez
ron.fresquez topcommenter

Let's cut to the chase here everybody. We all know this is all the President's fault. He wants to become just another Muslim dictator. This just part of a larger plan to make that happen.

Robyn Sackett
Robyn Sackett

What? This is so stupid I think this guy should be pulled over and breathalyzed!

Sandy Kelly
Sandy Kelly

Oh gosh, Concordia students....here's a fine example right from Rep Hansen's own district. Funny that, eh?

Sandy Kelly
Sandy Kelly

i can think of a State Senator who was on the news for booze parties in his Senate office that "coincidentally" is from Rep Hansen's district. Maybe it's a thing they share.

cnerlien
cnerlien

What happens when a legislator drives drunk and kills someone on the highway? You can't hide that and then that legislator and the state potentially is open to a massive civil lawsuit.  

Jasper12
Jasper12

I'm confused is he referring to the US Constitution or the state constitution? Also pretty sure most founding fathers be they local or national weren't worried about driving and drinking since cars did not exist in either instance!!

Carolina Vázquez
Carolina Vázquez

Legislator or not, you drive drunk you can kill someone. Nobody should be immune to the law.

_Joe_
_Joe_

It's not like there is a law on the books that says legislators get to get wasted and drive.  Only that DWI's fall under a category of offense that legislators are currently immune.  I don't necessarily think that that should be the case and I agree with the students trying to change it.  However, the bigger question to ask is, "How does that affect current DUI laws?"


You don't go reclassifying offenses willy-nilly.  What if you inadvertently open a loophole for offenders?  Or lessen the penalties in place today? 


I don't doubt that legislators have driven under the influence on occasion.  I also guarantee that they would whip out that immunity card if they ever got caught.  That's not right, but we should look at the larger picture, because the proposed changes affect all of us.  If it turns out that this is not the way to correct the problem, we should be looking for better alternatives.

Noel Barrick
Noel Barrick

Never happens. Just knee-jerk reactions to headlines.

Matthew Martin
Matthew Martin

"It should be mentioned the bill in question doesn't change the state constitution, but instead reclassifies DWI as a "breach of the peace" and thereby strips legislators of their immunity from that type of arrest while the legislature is in session." = for those to lazy to read the article.

AuCo Lai
AuCo Lai

Are you fucking serious. A drunk senator hitting a child doesn't make the child any less dead than if a drunk blue collar worker hits him/her.

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

Lawmakers should face the same laws the citizens face.  That's what gives the laws legitimacy.    What a jackass.  Drunk driving kills.  

Jonathon Richter
Jonathon Richter

Of course the forefathers put it in the Constitution. Because back then, they were the legislators. What a joke.

Camille Marion Wormley
Camille Marion Wormley

He knows they can't provide evidence. Because he's done it. I don't see why anyone would be opposed to changing it. Even if there is no proof anyone used it. People take advantage of power.

Mary Karius
Mary Karius

did any of you actually READ the story? nice headline CP. more distorted shit

Bradley T. Smith
Bradley T. Smith

Here's a thought, we'll assemble a body of taxpaying citizens to draft a set of laws that LAWMAKERS WILL ADHERE TO! Think he'll go for it?

Matt Touchette
Matt Touchette

I wonder how many of the people commenting actually read the article?

Todd Ray
Todd Ray

There should be NO exception. You want my vote, do your job. Stop wasting my time with why you are so much better than me. Than us. You are where you are at because of ME, US. Now get back to the real job and work at hand. Represent US, ME and not your right to drink and drive. Accept the laws you enact on our behalf. I still vote.

Theodore Bettien
Theodore Bettien

He kind of looks like Mr. Burns... Go figure on arguing immunity from a DWI.

Justin Irvine
Justin Irvine

Are you stupid? If you give one group freebies then all groups will say they deserve a freebie when in fact no one deserves a freebie.

Tom Hackett
Tom Hackett

He is one creepy looking, motherfucker.

Alison Draper
Alison Draper

What about lead by example. They can make the laws but dont have to follow them? What a shit show.

Michael Lee Severson
Michael Lee Severson

What? This is dumb, defending ones right to drive drunk because they are a lawmaker is nonsense.

midwestexplorer81
midwestexplorer81 topcommenter

Since when have democrats ever needed evidence of something to vote for a law?? LOL That's a ridiculous statement by Hansen.

Onan
Onan

Except he didn't use "the card", pleaded guilty and was fined and performed community service.

To be fair, the legislature wasn't in session at the time of his arrest.

ron.fresquez
ron.fresquez topcommenter

The example you are using does not have a "Get out pf Jail Free" component to it. Where in the article does it state the Senator used a  "Get out pf Jail Free" card? In the article the Senators Attorney states " He'll have to do just what everybody else does," 

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@cenger30  Pretty sure most of the foundering fathers weren't interested in special treatment. That's kinda why the US was founded under the mantra "with freedom for all". Keep trying though

ron.fresquez
ron.fresquez topcommenter

Reading Comprehension? Who needs Reading Comprehension? 

ajlalk3
ajlalk3 topcommenter

He doesn't look anything like Mr. Burns at all...

thewritingchef
thewritingchef

@midwestexplorer81  Projection of the worst kind. We're not the faith-based party that ignores data on everything from economics to social issues.

sekelly121
sekelly121

Right, he couldn't use it.....but how would we ever know if he had been pulled over during session and used it 25 times over. The opportunity for abuse is there.

sekelly121
sekelly121

It had just adjourned....a little earlier that day and you can bet he would have used his immunity........point being i guess there is no way we will know how many have used the immunity because where would the record be?

Jasper12
Jasper12

@mingtran @cenger30  but it you are arguing no special treatment then why the immunity? Immunity IS special treatment. This is the same as giving immunity to consular employees for murder and/or DUI where they kill someone.


mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@ajlalk3  That could be a younger, real life depiction of Montgomery J. Burns. Have you ever seen the Simpson's, or just use an avatar?

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@thewritingchef @midwestexplorer81  In fairness, both parties ignore science on myriad issues. Presently, the left is the bullshit champion though. Obamacare, man-made global warming, and an anti-gun agenda are prime examples. 

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@cenger30 I didn't say anything  about immunity, you did. Treat everyone the same and  so many problems go away.

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@MicheleBachmann You really are a special kind of retard. Don't look right in front of you. Just keep making awesome Michelle Bachmann statements you are known for. I always get a kick out of you

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@ron.fresquez  Notice he doesn't bother to back up his claim.  All he has is insults because he is a stupid bigot liar.  It's so annoying this is the type of person that thinks they know how government should run.  No wonder idiots like Michele Bachmann get elected.  

ron.fresquez
ron.fresquez topcommenter

mingtran.......... In fairness, both parties ignore science on myriad issues........... Really? You are joking right. When right wingers have nothing (which is generally the case) they always pull out the false equivalency card. They do it too! 

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@mingtran  How exactly is the left ignoring science on those issues?   Please cite specific examples.   Please pay special attention to global warming since the only scientists that agree with your point of view are being paid by the oil companies.  


Here is a link to NASA agreeing with me on global warming.   Ignore that science stupid.


http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus



Here is an article about how the NRA and pro gun politicians block research into gun violence.  Blocking studies shows which side is against the science of gun violence.  Gun control supporters don't block scientific studies.   


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/us/26guns.html?smid=pl-share


I just laughed at your "ignoring the science of Obamacare" remark.   What does that mean?   It's complete nonsense.  Obamacare is healthcare reform.  What science did they ignore specifically?   Stupid liar.    


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