Kentucky Senator Brandon Smith (R) was arrested on Jan. 6 and charged with driving under the influence and speeding. Kentucky State troopers claim Smith blew a .088 and was driving 65mph in a 45mph zone.
Sen. Smith was taken to the Franklin County Regional Jail. According to DC Clothesline, Sen. Smith refused to take an official breathalyzer test which resulted in the automatic suspension of his driver’s license.
The Senator’s lawyer, Bill Johnson, denies that Sen. Smith refused to take the test. Johnson claims that Sen. Smith was attempting to contact his lawyer for 15 minutes on a broken jailhouse phone. In the course of attempting to reach his attorney, officers accused Sen. Smith of not cooperating with the administering of the breathalyzer test.
Sen. Smith wants the charges against him dropped and his driver’s licensed reinstated. He insists he is exempt from being charged with a DUI because language in the Kentucky state constitution protects politicians from arrest while in session.
According to Raw Story, Section 43 of the state constitution reads: “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.” Sen. Smith’s arrest took place on the opening day of the legislative session.
Johnson told the Associated Press that this specific language was added to Kentucky’s constitution in 1891, to “keep legislators from being bothered by people who would arrest them during sessions,” as reported by Raw Story. Essentially, Sen. Smith believes that he does not have to abide by the same rules as the rest of society and is of “privileged” status.
However, others disagree with Sen. Smith’s logic. Kentucky.com reports that Assistant Franklin County Attorney David Garnett told The State Journal that, "My preliminary impression is that the 1891 constitution did not intend to give legislators blanket immunity for any act committed during the legislative session."
Johnson has filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of his client, based on the language of the Kentucky constitution. The motion is scheduled to be heard next month on Feb. 12, 2014. It will be interesting to find out if the Judge agrees with Johnson’s argument.