State Rep Pulled Over for Drunk Driving Speaks to House
Colorado State Rep. Laura Bradford spoke to colleagues on the State House Floor on Monday regarding being pulled over by police last Wednesday for drunk driving. There have been questions as to whether she invoked legislative immunity to avoid a drunk-driving arrest after a happy hour at a Colfax bar.
Tim Hoover and Sara Burnett report in The Denver Post that Bradford said:
‘I am not above the law. I am bound to the same laws and standards as every other citizen,’ said Bradford, R-Collbran, in a speech on the House floor, her voice shaking at times. ‘I am sorry that my actions have cast a shadow on this House and the entire General Assembly.’
Denver police said Bradford was pulled over in the Capitol Hill area just after 10 p.m. Wednesday when an officer saw her making an illegal turn. The officer smelled alcohol on Bradford’s breath, and she admitted to having been drinking, police said.
The police office called a supervisor for advice after giving Bradford roadside sobriety tests, which indicate whether there is a need for further tests. Police said Bradford invoked Article 5, Section 16, of the Colorado Constitution, which says:
The members of the general assembly shall, in all cases except treason or felony, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the sessions of their respective houses, or any committees thereof, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either house, or any committees thereof, they shall not be questioned in any other place.
Deb Stanley writes for ABC7 News that although Bradford told lawmakers that Denver police pulled her over, she did not say why. “I was driving my personal car with legislative license plates. In response to the officer’s inquiry, I stated that I was leaving a legislative function, was on my way home and was expected to be at the capitol the next day,” Bradford said.
As The Denver Post reports:
It’s not clear what official business Bradford would have been coming from or going to at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night. She didn’t address that question in her statement on the House floor and refused to answer further questions later.
However, multiple sources confirmed to The Denver Post that Bradford had attended a happy hour at Prohibition, a bar just a few blocks east of the Capitol. Sources told The Post that Bradford was at the bar for several hours.
According to Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson, the license plates on the car she was driving indicated she was a state lawmaker. “She was given a field sobriety test, and there were enough indicators that the officer on the scene wanted to take her into custody for a blood test,” said Denver Police spokesman Lt. Matt Murray. “But under the constitution, we couldn’t detain her.”
7NEWS spoke with legal experts and Democrat and Republican lawmakers, who said the law was misapplied:
‘It’s poppycock that she’s immune from arrest for driving while drunk,’ said Professor Tom Russell with the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. ‘The Denver police are giving legislators a break that they don’t deserve under the Constitution. Rep. Bradford may make the law, but she’s not above the law.’
‘In the current situation, Denver police may have applied the privilege more broadly than the Constitution does,’ said Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs.
Gardner said the provision is intended to prevent the governor or judicial branch from interfering with lawmakers as they work.
After police gave Bradford a traffic ticket and locked up her car, she took a cab to her Denver residence. Bradford released a statement Friday night saying, “I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of the people of my district and Colorado. I understand the speaker’s decision, and I look forward to having the facts brought to light.”
Bradford was suspended from her post as chairman of the House Local Government Committee after being given the traffic ticket, according to Owen K. Loftus, majority communications director. Ballotpedia.org reports that Bradford began serving as a State representative in 2009 and that her term runs through January 12, 2013.
Image by Laura Bradford for Colorado House, used under Fair Use: Reporting.