Legislative privilege and Laura Bradford
State Rep. Laura Bradford apologized to her colleagues and constituents Monday, an appropriate act in the wake of her traffic stop by Denver police last Wednesday and her subsequent release based on legislative privilege.
The problem is, Bradford’s apology on the House floor Monday morning still leaves questions about why legislative immunity was granted, and it appears to conflict with statements from the Denver Police Department.
Bradford was pulled over by a Denver police officer Wednesday night for making an improper left turn. The officer reportedly smelled alcohol on her breath and conducted a roadside sobriety test. But Bradford wasn’t cited for driving under the influence of alcohol, nor was she taken anywhere for a blood-alcohol test. Instead, her car was parked and locked and transportation home was arranged for her.
Why the traffic stop ended that way is the issue.
In her floor statement Monday, Bradford said, “I was driving my personal car with legislative license plates. In response to the officer’s inquiries, I stated that I was leaving a legislative function and needed to be at the Capitol the next day.” She added, “I responded to the officer’s questions. My statements were not intended to invoke legislative privilege.”
However, a Denver Police supervisor told The Daily Sentinel that Bradford “did not use the term ‘legislative immunity,’ ” but officers believed the context was clear and therefore called a supervisor and legislative immunity was granted to Bradford as a result.
The words Bradford used in responding to the officer — that she was leaving a legislative function and had to be at the Capitol the next day — are exactly what one would say to invoke legislative privilege.
Furthermore, if it wasn’t Bradford’s intention to invoke legislative privilege, all she had to do was tell that to the officers who stopped her. There are examples of other lawmakers who did just that in similar circumstances.
But Bradford didn’t do that. And she accepted her release under legislative privilege when it was offered to her.
That doesn’t mesh with her statement Monday that, “I am not above the law. I am bound by the same laws and standards as every other citizen.”
We have no idea whether Bradford was illegally driving under the influence of alcohol Wednesday. The odor of alcohol on one’s breath is not proof of intoxication, and a roadside sobriety test proves little without a timely blood-alcohol test.
Even if she violated DUI law, she would hardly be the first important person to do so. The responsible ones own up to their mistake and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The issue is whether Bradford used a constitutional provision, designed in part to protect lawmakers from political harassment by those who might control law enforcement, to avoid the same sort of treatment that average citizens would receive.
It’s clear Bradford was treated differently than the average citizen. Her actions Wednesday night and her words in Monday’s apology show she did nothing to object to that special treatment. On top of that, she would have us believe it was thrust upon her.