Minnesota Lawmakers Given “Get Out of Jail Free” Card Allowing Them to Drink and Drive Without Fear of Being Arrested

get-out-of-jail-free-card“Wow” is about all I can say about this story.  It’s something that seems even too absurd for The Onion.

The Minnesota Constitution gives lawmakers a “get out of jail free” card of sorts, basically allowing them to drink and drive without fear of being arrested.  Yes, you read that right.

According to WDAY 6 News:

This ‘privilege from arrest’ includes the members of each house in all cases except treason, felony and breach of peace, and says they “shall be privileged from arrest during the session of their respective houses and in going to or returning from the same.”

Jayne Jones, a professor at Concordia St. Paul, is seeking to put an end to this immunity by including DWI within the “breach of peace” part of the Minnesota Constitution.  She uses her classroom to teach students about the process of government by having them support a bill and follow through with their support until it’s either passed or voted down.

Jones recounted a story that initially led to her push to end this ridiculous loophole when she was at a bar and noticed a legislator that was clearly too drunk to drive.  “He was drunk as a skunk,” she said, “and he announced to the entire bar that unlike us, he could drive home drunk and not get arrested.”

His secretary then showed her a card that gave legislators immunity from being arrested for driving while intoxicated.

This absurdity is what motivated Jones to try to put an end to this loophole.

Her current efforts to end DWI immunity for state legislators have been ongoing for three years now.  Though she says that they’ve finally made progress as they’re “OK” in the House, yet they still have work to do in the Senate.

It’s ridiculous that it’s taken three years for this to finally be making some progress.  The fact that there’s a “debate” about this at all is absurd.  Who in their right mind actually believes state legislators should be exempt from criminal prosecution for drinking and driving?  Why am I even being forced to contemplate how utterly dangerous and stupid the whole concept is?  Three years of fighting to fix this and it’s still not fixed?!

I hope that whenever this comes up for a vote, the tally is made public and we can all see who votes against closing this “immunity” provision.  And I hope those who do are made to answer for why they would vote against closing this disgusting loophole.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • Matthew Reece

    If there are rulers, then there is no rule of law because the rulers are above the law.

  • circeherbivora

    This is NOT okay. When this was approved, did the voting public know about it? Who came UP with this?

    • Charles Vincent

      “When this was approved”
      The Minnesota Constitution. “The Constitution of the State of Minnesota, USA was initially approved by the residents of Minnesota Territory in a special election held on October 13, 1857, and was ratified by the United States Senate on May 11, 1858, marking the admittance of Minnesota to the Union.”

      “did the voting public know about it?”
      The voting public had to ratify this as did the US congress.

      “Who came UP with this?”
      They probably copied it or modeled it on the US Constitution that prevents US congressmen/women from being arrested/detained for things like speeding or other traffic violations. This excerpt explains it;
      “This ‘privilege from arrest’ includes the members of each house in all cases except treason, felony and breach of peace, and says they “shall be privileged from arrest during the session of their respective houses and in going to or returning from the same.” ”

      • Andy Kinnard

        Yup. US Constitution provides much the same immunity to sitting Congressional Representatives.

      • Charles Vincent

        Hola Senior Kinnard. Como esta?

      • Andy Kinnard

        Estoy bueno, Senior Vincent. Y tu? That’s about all the Spanish I remember from two years in college and two more in high school. LOL. Did you edit that comment? I could have sworn I wasn’t offering such weak redundancy (to your comment).

      • Charles Vincent

        Bein amigo Bien. Yes you must have posted as I was editing in the details of stuff I was searching up. My oldest is fluent in Spanish so I have to kinda keep up.

      • George Streeter

        So Minnesota had cars in 1857? Man they were an advanced state. Obviously this was passed well after the original Minnesota Constitution was ratified.

      • Charles Vincent

        The intent was about travel, the mode of travel may change but that’s the intent of the passage don’t be such a dullard. whether they had cars or not is irrelevant to the meaning of the relevant passage.

      • George Streeter

        Don’t be so intellectually dishonest. We don’t license people to drive horses. There is a reason we license drivers and clearly this could not stand up to a challenge in court.

      • Brian

        You are saying that the MN Constitution is unconstitutional? Which is the only grounds by which a court could block it.

      • Charles Vincent

        You’re free to believe what you want. The passage clearly covers travel by any mode and lists only 3 exceptions to the immunity. For reference here is a reply of mine to another poster since you seem to be a bit on the lazy side.

        A few things to ponder here for you.
        “”This ‘privilege from arrest’ includes the members of each house in all cases except treason, felony and breach of peace,”
        In most states DWI and DUI are felonies so they would not be immune from arrest according to the statute.
        http://www DOT dwi-minnesota DOT com/penalty-5-duis-minnesota DOT html

        And

        ““shall be privileged from arrest during the session of their respective houses and in going to or returning from the same.””
        Which means if they are traveling to, or from congress they are immune to arrest except under the specific circumstances listed in the above example.
        i.e. if an officer were stop them for speeding say 60 in a 45 they could be belligerent and obnoxious to the officer and could not be arrested.

      • Charles Vincent

        “We don’t license people to drive horses.”

        Yet people still get charged with riding the horse or a bike or while walking with DUI.

        DUI riding horse;

        https://www DOT google DOT com/search?q=person+gets+DUI+on+horse&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org DOT mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb

        Riding a Bicycle;

        https://www DOT google DOT com/search?q=person+gets+DUI+on+bicycle&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org DOT mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb

        Walking;

        https://www DOT google DOT com/search?q=person+gets+DUI+while+walking&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org DOT mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb

        You really need to pull your head from the sand it’s in. Found all this in less than 5 minutes

      • Brian

        the law doesn’t say anything about cars

      • circeherbivora

        Thank you for your thorough research! Hm. Surely the people who originally drafted it wouldn’t have intended for scofflaws to get off and deliberately ignore laws because they know they won’t be punished? If nothing else, this new (?) development of politicians behaving in a way that endangers the public deliberately and provocatively should be enough to trigger a vote to eliminate that clause. I would certainly HOPE it would, anyway.

      • Charles Vincent

        Not sure why politicians ignoring laws is such a surprise. They’ve been doing it for a long long time on many levels and varying degrees.

      • Charles Vincent

        A few things to ponder here for you.
        “”This ‘privilege from arrest’ includes the members of each house in all cases except treason, felony and breach of peace,”
        In most states DWI and DUI are felonies so they would not be immune from arrest according to the statute.
        http://www DOT dwi-minnesota DOT com/penalty-5-duis-minnesota DOT html

        And

        ““shall be privileged from arrest during the session of their respective houses and in going to or returning from the same.””
        Which means if they are traveling to, or from congress they are immune to arrest except under the specific circumstances listed in the above example.
        i.e. if an officer were stop them for speeding say 60 in a 45 they could be belligerent and obnoxious to the officer and could not be arrested.

  • Frank

    The law makes a certain amount of sense. There used to be dirty tricks played (well different ones from now) were they could delay opposition from making votes by having them arrested. What they needed to do was make it so the practice could only be applied if they were heading to the legislature and any crime they commit could be charged after they had finished their work there.

    • George Streeter

      Your kidding right? It is okay to endanger public safety so you can go vote on a bill? I got an idea how about not being a drunk? Or get someone else to drive your impaired ass to the capital? Or god forbid pay for a taxi if you are too drunk? I am not sure I want drunk legislators voting either but that may explain some of the things Republicans vote for.

      • Frank

        As I said they should be charged… Meaning they would have the same penalty as anyone else just if they are needed in the legislature they need to be allowed to still go either by police escort or whatever and after they have finished their business they would be treated as any other civilian and booked and processed. (also innocent till proven guilty). This way there would be no get out of jail free card.

      • Brian

        You realize that the whole “drunk driving” think is not explicitly provided for. It is what one person came up with as a potential consequence to the wording of the MN Constitution, which matches the US Constitution and probably most states. Come on now, nobody really thinks that this would allow a drunk driver to go on their merry way.

      • George Streeter

        I am sad to say some here seem to be under that impression and even defending it as as the right thing to do. It is a shame so many are blinded by their party lines to accept anything someone on their party does or claims as morally correct.

      • Brian

        what does this have to do with party? Which party pushed it when the US Constitution was ratified? (See Art. 1 Sec. 6). Note this springs from the English Parliamentary Privilege that goes back centuries farther.

  • Eddie Krebbs

    1) How is driving drunk (or under the influence of other drugs) integral to them doing their job as legislator ? 2) Is there an easier alternative solution (such as providing designated chaufers) ? 3) How does this jive with their old-fashioned family values ? 4) Is there a negative such as giving them a feeling of empowerment to break other laws (as presented, they could be selling meth on the doorsteps of a school with impunity) ?

    • Lucimorland

      It isn’t…but that isn’t the point.

      Re-read the article.

      • Eddie Krebbs

        Lucimor – reread my questions. They are the questions that a court would be likely to ask before granting such a broad exemption.

    • Brian

      Question 1 is enough to end the discussion. It is not related to their legislative function and as such would not be covered by the privilege as it has been interpreted by the courts. They can be arrested for drunk driving despite what this article suggests.

  • Corey Turner

    Someone will have to kill someone in a drunk driving incident before any thing changes….

    • Brian

      it doesn’t mean they can’t be charged, it just prevents arrest on the way to/from a legislative session. As noted already, the historical reason was dirty tricks having someone arrested so they can’t vote on a bill.

      • Corey Turner

        That doesn’t change my comment. The public would be outraged to hear that a representative was not arrested if they killed someone while drunk driving, regardless if they ended up being charged. While the historical context is relevant in that it gives a reason why this law exists in the first place, today’s public would not care why it was enacted and would want it repealed if someone died.

      • Brian

        Constitutional amendments are a bit difficult to pass. However, there is no reason to believe that this would prevent him from being arrested killing someone drunk driving. Heck, there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t be arrested just for drunk driving. There is Supreme Court case law on this clause, the most prominent being the one about publishing the Watergate Papers. This article strikes me as outrage without understanding the meaning, which is ok for a blog, but is doing a disservice to readers.

  • Lucas Schulze

    I just want to say it was a poor choice and in poor taste to use this image to highlight the story. To associate Mark Ritchie with helping legislators escape prosecution for drunk driving is offensive. The Secretary of State does not make the laws and Allen Clifton obviously has not done his research or he’d know that Mark’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver and has been outspoken and instrumental at strengthening laws around drunk driving in MN.

    • quiver366

      If that is the case ..Then Mark Ritchie should have been so OUTRAGED at the thought of signing this that he should have refused and made it public. If he did this then he should be ashamed of himself as a father.

      • Brian

        are you as outraged by the US Constitution?

      • FrankLooper

        Now and then.

  • Brian

    Does no one study the Constitution anymore in school?