Many state constitutions include provisions granting legislators immunity from arrest. Although 43 states currently have some version of legislative immunity written into their constitutions, the interpretation of these laws can be extremely vague.
In Minnesota, several groups are fighting against the state's legislative immunity provision, which grants lawmakers “privilege from arrest” except for treason, felony and breach of the peace throughout an entire legislative session, Think Progress reports.
The Minnesota House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would remove this legislative immunity, passing after a 115-13 vote. The bill is currently stagnating in the Senate, which is reviewing the potential new law.
A major concern regarding the current law is the way in which it treats the issue of drunk driving. It was brought up for consideration by a group of Concordia University political science students as well as members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
These groups have historical precedence to back their concerns, as Rep. Laura Bradford invoked legislative immunity in Colorado after being pulled over on suspicion of DWI in 2012.
“I am not above the law. I am bound to the same laws and standards as every other citizen,” Bradford said after the incident occurred, according to the Denver Post.
Minnesota Senator Scott Newman (R) believes the new Minnesota bill to be unnecessary.
“As we’ve heard from the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you fail an impaired driving test you will be arrested. I have faith in our law enforcement to handle these situations properly. If there is evidence of abuse of power that would be curbed by passing this bill, I will gladly move to reconsider,” Newman said.
Newman has moved to table the bill, effectively halting its progress through the legislative body.
A Texas man who was reportedly caught in a traffic violation by a speed camera is fighting back, with an appeal that cited several constitutional arguments and even a complex mathematical formula.
The unidentified man, pleading not guilty to the ticket he was issued, says he received a letter claiming he was speeding in Plano, Texas, on March 20, the Daily Mail reported.
In Plano, appeals to traffic violations are required to be heard in court. He then suggests that his fine be dropped “out of respect for taxpayers, and my desire that their hard earned money not be wasted in such proceedings.”
The letter was posted to Reddit under the title “This is how my brother tries to get out of a speeding ticket,” according to TheBlaze.
He proceeds to write that all charges should be dropped, citing that the 6th Amendment gives him the right to face his accuser, which in this case, is a camera. The man also argues that the government has no way to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and he’s neither under legal obligation to name someone else as guilty nor required – under the 5th Amendment – to implicate himself.
He goes on to ask for “evidence the prosecution may have of my involvement in the ‘offense,’” including camera maintenance records and for the traffic light at the intersection in which the camera recorded him.
The man also argued that a video that shows the yellow light at the intersection only lit up for 3 seconds, 50 percent less than the safe what is required for 40 mph zone, as recommended by the Institute for Transportation Engineers.
Included in his letter was a mathematical formula the ITE used to make its recommendation, which was done “to ensure pedestrian safety and adequate time to stop safely.”
The result of the man’s appeal was unknown, the Daily Mail reported.
11Student Told He Can't Hand Out Constitution On School Campus, Wins $50,000 In Suit Against Them (Video)
Last September, college junior Robert Van Tuinen decided that since it was Constitution day, he would hand out copies of the constitution on campus. The 26-year-old army veteran didn’t see anything wrong with this, but Modesto Junior College did, and campus police approached him, asking him to stop handing out the documents.
The incident was caught on video. Van Tuinen can be seen being questioned by a campus police officer who tells him that he can’t pass out the documents because, “there are rules.” Van Tuinen asks the officer to tell him what the rules are while explaining that he is planning to start an organization called Young Americans for Liberty.
“That’s fine, but if you’re going to start an organization like that you have to go through the rigamarole,” responded the officer.
"It was a tense situation," said Van Tuinen to Fox News. "To be told I can't do something as basic as handing out the Constitution was frustrating."
Van Tuinen was taken to an administrative office where a woman told him that there is a designated area on campus for free speech demonstrations, and said if he wanted to hand out the flyers, he had to do it there. That area was already occupied at the time.
Now, Van Tuinen and Modesto Junior College have reached a $50,000 settlement after the student filed suit against them. In addition to paying him $50,000, the school will be changing their free speech policy going forward. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, represented Van Tuinen in the case.
“I am thrilled with this outcome and I am grateful to my attorneys and FIRE for securing this agreement,” van Tuinen said. “Now the Modesto Junior College community and I will be able to engage in free discussion on campus. I encourage students at other schools with restrictive free speech policies to stand up for their rights.”
11Rand Paul's Constitutional Amendment Lets Congress Collect Any Welfare Benefit Available To Any American
Obamacare, we just can’t quit you.
That’s how some conservatives seem to feel, even after losing every single battle over the new health care law — officially named the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — and going so far as to shut down the federal government for more than two weeks in an attempt to force President Barack Obama to give up on at least some parts of his signature legislative accomplishment.
Yes, they’re still kicking and screaming over the law that extends health care coverage to Americans who couldn’t previously obtain it.
The latest attempt to take a swipe at the law comes from Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is pushing not just a simple piece of legislation, but an actual amendment to the United States Constitution that would prohibit Congress from passing any law that did not apply equally to itself as to the rest of the American people.
Ever since the health care law passed in 2010, conservatives have railed against what they said was an “exemption” for members of Congress, who received their health insurance through a federal plan. Paul’s amendment would end that so-called “exemption.”
Of course, the “exemption” was never an exemption at all. The new law requires only that Americans have some kind of health care coverage. Only people who are currently uninsured are required to buy insurance through the online health insurance exchanges created by the law (or through some other means).
No one who currently receives insurance through an employer, private or governmental, would be required to do anything different.
Nonetheless, Congress passed an amendment to the health care law requiring that congressmembers and their often overworked, underpaid staff members must buy insurance through the exchanges. While conservatives say that this makes Obamacare now “apply” to Congress, what it actually does is make the requirements of the law much stricter for Congress than for everyone else.
Paul’s proposed constitutional amendment would take this one step further, making any law passed by Congress apply directly to congressmembers, as well as the president, his administration officials and staff, and the Supreme Court.
But the clumsy wording of the proposed amendment, as Ian Millheiser of ThinkProgress points out, would actually make congressmembers eligible for any federal benefit given to anyone in the United States.
The amendment states, “Congress shall make no law applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to Congress.”
Therefore, when Congress passes a special law that gives, for example, a one-time death benefit to the widow of a deceased congressmember — as it recently did for the wife of late New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg — under Paul’s amendment, every single member of Congress would receive the same amount of money.
Members of Congress would also be eligible to receive the same benefits as military widows and veterans. For that matter, members of the House and Senate could also receive food stamps, Medicare or the special pension paid to Medal of Honor recipients.
In any case, Paul’s amendment is merely a symbolic gesture. To pass a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate, followed by a state-by-state vote in which 38 of the 50 states must approve the new amendment. Given the currently polarized state of the political landscape, the chances of passing any constitutional amendment are basically zero.
Sources: ThinkProgress, Politico, Atlantic Wire
Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to challenge the Constitutional law prohibiting foreign-born citizens from becoming president of the United States in an effort to run in 2016, according to the New York Post’s Page Six.
The Austrian-born actor and former Republican Governor of California is lobbying support to change the law. Any amendment to the Constitution must meet the approval of two-thirds majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“Schwarzenegger has been talking openly about working on getting the constitutional rules changed so he can run for president in 2016. He is ready to file legal paperwork to challenge the rules,” a source told Page Six.
Schwarzenegger, 66, became a naturalized citizen in 1983. He is currently in New York City to promote his new Sylvester Stallone film “Escape Plan.”
Jay Leno recently asked the actor on the “Tonight Show” if he would run for president if the Constitution was amended.
“Without any doubt,” he said.
In a 2004 interview on “Meet the Press” he said: “I think that, you know, times have changed. I think this is now a much more global economy. I think there's so many people here in this country that are now from overseas, that are immigrants, that are doing such a terrific job with the work, bringing businesses here and all this, that there's no reason why not."
The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, brought the issue before the committee in 2004 to discuss exactly why the founding fathers would limit the Constitution in this way.
The New York Times described the hearing as “one-sided.”
"It is time for us, the elected representatives of this nation of immigrants, to begin the process that can result in removing this artificial, outdated, unnecessary and unfair barrier," said Hatch.
A House stenographer had a meltdown on the House floor Wednesday evening during the voting of a bill that found a middle ground to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit.
Sources told ABC News that the woman has been identified as Dianne Reidy, a court reporter with the Office of the Clerk.
Reidy was forcibly removed out of the House chamber by security officers after her rants about God and the Freemasons. According to one source, the woman was shouting, “The House is divided.”
“He will not be mocked. He will not be mocked,” the woman yelled. “The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under God. It never was. It never was. Had it been, it would not have been — the Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons. They go against God. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God, lord Jesus Christ.”
The incident caused quite a stir in the chamber as lead member of the House, Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.) tried to restore order by banging the gavel multiple times.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told the Washington Post that the stenographer is a well-known and liked figure in the House.
“I think there’s a lot of sympathy, because something clearly happened there,” Connolly said.
Reporters and bystanders recorded the whole incident via Twitter:
Chappelear, Chris (@chrischappelear). “Was that a protestor on the #house floor? #cspan.” 16 Oct. 2013, 10:18 p.m.
Pergram, Chad (@ChadPergram). “Protester dragged off House floor. Apparently one of the stenographers from the dais.”16 Oct. 2013, 10:19 p.m.
Memoli, Mike (@mikememoli). “Disruption in House apparently caused by a stenographer, per aides.” 16 Oct. 2013. 10:19 p.m.
Zwillich, Todd (@toddzwillich). “‘Praise be to GOD!’House stenographer Diane Reidy is rushed off the floor and into an elevator...”16 Oct. 2013. 10:18 p.m.
Passing out free copies of the United States Constitution may seem like a reasonable way to celebrate Constitution Day; but in an apparent infringement of the Constitution’s own First Amendment, one California college prevented a student from doing just that.
On September 17, Robert Van Tuinen of Modesto Junior College reportedly stood outside the student resource center handing out pamphlets of the Constuition for approximately 10 minutes before campus police approached him and demanded that he cease.
According to college regulations, Tuinen was only permitted to hand out materials in the designated “free speech zone,” implying that free speech is unacceptable elsewhere at the school.
Even in the “free speech zone,” Tuinen would have needed to schedule the event days in advance, so he was unable to continue.
A video of the incident shows Tuinen asking, “Don’t I have free speech, sir?” after which a police officer informs him that he must leave, either willingly or forcibly.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) organization stepped in once they learned of the incident, and sent a letter to the college requesting an abandonment of current policies. The letter read:
“The video of Modesto Junior College police and administrators stubbornly denying a public college student’s right to freely pass out pamphlets to fellow students — copies of the Constitution, no less! — should send a chill down the spine of every American. Worse, FIRE’s research shows that Modesto Junior College is hardly alone in its fear of free speech. In fact, one in six of America’s 400 largest and most prestigious colleges have ‘free speech zones’ limiting where speech can take place. This video brings to life the deeply depressing reality of the climate for free speech on campus.”
According to the video, Tuinen was hoping to garner enough interest to start a chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty at his school. With this new publicity, the school may have inadvertently helped the student accomplish his goal.
A retired combat veteran has lost the fight against his Georgia retirement community’s flag-flying policy. Jim Lowe had been patriotically displaying both his American flag and U.S. Marine Corps colors outside his home in Sun City-Peachtree, but the community’s board of directors voted against changing a rule on outside decorations stating that each home can only have one flag. Lowe argued that the traditional Marine Corps battle colors is not a flag.
In July, Lowe received a code violation notice from management informing him he would face fines of up to $25 a day if he did not remove one of the flags. Lowe and his wife were also potentially facing a lien being placed on their home, Fox News reported.
"When a bunch of arbitrary rules trump the Constitution, it's a sad day because indeed a piece of America is lost," Lowe said after the board made its decision.
"A recent poll of residents asking their opinion about a possible change in the number of flags permitted indicated no overwhelming preference for a change in the governing documents,” according to a statement released by the board.
Lowe said that, despite the fact that they are happy in their home and have many friends in the area, he and his wife have no choice but to pack up and move out of the community.
11Kentucky Woman Resists Testifying Against her Wife in Murder Case Despite Lack of Spousal Privileges
Jo Clary, 39, is accused of murdering George Murphey and stealing his van. She argues Murphey attempted to sexually assault her with a hammer before she turned the weapon on her attacker and bludgeoned him to death. In addition to murder and grand theft, Clary is accused of tampering with evidence at the crime scene. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, Geneva Case, 49, is the partner of the accused and has been summoned to a Louisville court to as a key witness for the prosecution. In almost all states, a witness is not required to testify against their spouse. However, only in 13 states are Clary and Case considered married and Kentucky is not one of those states.
In fact, in 2004, Kentucky passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage and defined the institution as between one man and one woman.
That same year, however, Clary and Case were joined in a civil union in Vermont.
The prosecution, however, argues that not only is Vermont law not recognized in Kentucky but even if it were, civil unions in Vermont do not even carry the same legal weight as same-sex marriages in Vermont.
This has forced the defense to take a broader and more ambitious approach by arguing that the state ban itself is unconstitutional.
The case has the potential to make it to federal court and set a precedent nationwide, especially if the verdict favors the defense.
Meanwhile, Clary is being held on $75,000 bail. The court date is set for August 30.
Sources: The Columbus Dispatch
A new Arizona court ruling has found that police are allowed to temporarily take custody of a civilian’s firearm for the officer’s safety. Surprisingly, this ruling also applies if a civilian’s contact with police is voluntary.
The ruling comes after a gun owner who was appealing a firearms misconduct conviction argued that his firearm was wrongfully taken by Phoenix police when he chose to talk to them in a high-crime area.
One Arizona law allows police to confiscate weapons during encounters with people. If police approached a person to ask him questions about a suspected crime, for example, the police officers would be able to confiscate the weapon.
It was unclear, however, whether or not that law applied during willing interactions with police. If somebody approaches a cop and asks about the weather, can police officers confiscate his weapon?
Yes, apparently. The Court of Appeals ruled that police can temporarily take the gun regardless of whether or not the interaction is consensual. That would mean that Arizona police can take a gun from a civilian at any time for any reason.
One dissenting judge argued that the Arizona law should only apply when the police have some reason to investigate a suspected crime or criminal. If the cops do have reason to believe that a person has committed a crime, then it is much more reasonable for the police officers to take his gun.
This ruling gives gun owners even more incentive to carry concealed weapons. If cops can grab a gun from a civilian on a whim, many gun owners would undoubtedly opt to keep their firearms hidden under clothes or inside of purses. Police theoretically wouldn’t be able to discover and confiscate a firearm without an unconstitutional frisk or search of a civilian’s person. Of course, some would argue that police are already violating the Constitution by taking firearms in the first place.
What’s your take on the story? Should officers be able to protect themselves by holding onto a gun for a short period of time? Or should cops keep their hands to themselves?