LAWMAKER IMMUNITY: Students seek end to in-session DUI exception - KMSP-TV

LAWMAKER IMMUNITY: Students seek end to in-session DUI exception

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Under current state law, a Minnesota lawmaker cannot be arrested if they are pulled over while driving drunk during the legislative session -- but a group of students is hoping to change that.

"It's a ridiculous law," Hope Baker, a student at Concordia University, said bluntly. "It had good intentions once upon a time."

Baker and her college classmates believe it's time to close a gaping loophole in the state constitution that protects the very state lawmakers who would vote on it, making it a tough sell.

"You have to play the game to change the game, and we're going to fight and get this," Amal Younis pledged.

The students are specifically focused on drunk driving because a section of the Minnesota Constitution written long ago that protects lawmakers from misdemeanor arrest during the legislative session. Once upon a time, it intended to shield elected officials from being detained frivolously by political opponents who may want to affect a vote at the Capitol, but now, students argue it only provides a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to drunken driving -- a misdemeanor.

"We are just trying to make that illegal for everyone. That's what the public wants. It's safe; Minnesota needs it," Baker insisted. "We need safety on the roads."

At least one lawmaker is already on board when it comes to the bill that would end the exemption for drunk driving.

"This is good policy," Minnesota Rep. Nick Zerwas, of Elk River, said. "It's an antiquated law; we need to address it."

As it happens, the so-called "get-out-of-jail-free card" is an actual card that all lawmakers receive at the beginning of the session, and the immunity language can be found on the back. In theory, it would be shown to an arresting officer, so it's not clear if it's ever been used to avoid an arrest.

Either way, the students say the possibility is enough a problem -- and they won't leave the Capitol until it's resolved.

"It's frustrating and rewarding," Younis said. "We're learning a lot, making a lot of connections, and sometimes frustrations happen, but we feel like we're going to win this."

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