Political Privilege on Display in Kentucky

You see political privilege when a state senator claims to be exempt from DUI laws the rest of us must obey.

no rule of law

There is an argument some will make that DUI laws are too strict and somewhat arbitrary. Others will disagree. I can respect both sides of the argument. What I can’t respect is someone who wants the laws to stay in place for everyone except himself because he is so special.

So now we have this report from WKYT: “State senator wants DUI charge dismissed based on 1891 rule.”

A Kentucky state senator charged with driving under the influence wants the charges dismissed citing a century-old rule that state lawmakers are “privileged from arrest” during legislative sessions.

In court Wednesday, a judge delayed Sen. Brandon Smith’s arraignment after his attorney filed the request.

The motion is based on Section 43 in the state constitution which was added in 1891.

“The members of the General Assembly shall, in all cases except treason, felony, breach or surety of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance on the sessions of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House they shall not be questioned in any other place,” reads the section.

The Republican senator was arrested earlier this month, on the first day of the legislative session in Frankfort.

Kentucky State Police say he was speeding and smelled of alcohol during a traffic stop.

I’m trying to understand the point of the original rule. It makes me wonder if there were reports of state politicians in the executive branch or the government agencies using their powers to obstruct members of the other party from getting to the Assembly to vote.

Whatever the reason, we obviously can’t allow people to drive recklessly and endanger others just because they are politicians and the legislature is in session.

In defense of Smith, this might be his lawyer’s idea. The law is a real law so I can see why the attorney, who is supposed to do whatever he legally can to help his client escape charges, would appeal to that statute.

But Smith should realize that invoking that privilege to escape a drunk driving conviction is more morally repugnant than the charge itself. His chances of remaining in office beyond his next term ought to be zero.

But given who gets elected into office, I can’t be sure that this public display of political privilege will really cost him anything.