MADD joins push to strip DUI immunity from Minn. lawmakers - KMSP-TV

MADD joins push to strip DUI immunity from Minn. lawmakers

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

On Tuesday afternoon, Mothers Against Drunk Driving joined a group of Concordia University students in their call to end DUI immunity for state legislators -- and a new bill could make it happen.

"Legislators make laws to keep the public safe. These laws must be upheld by everyone, especially those who make them. Drunk driving is 100% preventable and can cause so much devastation. Our lawmakers must be held to the same standards as their constituents," stated MADD National President Jan Withers.

Rep. Ryan Winkler introduced HF 2281, known as the "DUI Immunity Bill," in the Minnesota House, and Sen. Kathy Sheran introduced a companion bill, SF 2073, in the Senate. The proposed bill would change strip state lawmakers of their current immunity to DUI prosecution.

The push to end the exemption for state lawmakers began with a group of political science students who say the antiquated law leaves a gaping loophole.

"It's a ridiculous law," Hope Baker told Fox 9 News. "It had good intentions once upon a time."

FOX 9 ARCHIVE: Students seek end to in-session DUI immunity

At the beginning of each legislative session, Minnesota lawmakers are literally handed a "get-out-of-jail-free" card that offers them immunity from arrest for all offenses that are not felonies, treason or "breach of the peace." Those privileges only last while lawmakers are in session, but proponents of the bill say there is never a time when anyone should drive drunk.

"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."

Originally, the immunity from misdemeanor arrests was intended to shield elected officials from being frivolously detained by political rivals seeking to affect votes at the Capitol. Now, MADD contends the law is hypocritical because it allows the same elected officials who create laws that punish criminals to skip the consequences.

MADD'S 2014 REPORT GIVES MN A LOW GRADE

The most recent report from MADD gives Minnesota only two of five possible stars when rating effective measures for reducing drunk driving, but the group says removing the DUI immunity for lawmakers would be "a step in the right direction -- a step for responsibility and safety."

Yet, the group insists that Minnesota lawmakers can still do more to improve public safety, and MADD is also advocating for sobriety checkpoints and an ignition interlock mandate that would require all offenders to have the devices installed as part of their nationwide campaign.

"MADD calls on every state to adopt all offender ignition interlock laws," said Withers. "MADD asks lawmakers to give law enforcement the tools needed to stop drunk driving by legalizing sobriety checkpoints and allowing for no refusal events."

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