Colorado lawmaker suspended after skirting DUI apologizes on floor

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DENVER — A Colorado lawmaker who was suspended from her position as chair of the House Local Government Committee after apparently using a “get out of jail free” card to avoid a possible DUI, apologized on the floor of the House Monday.

According to Denver Police, Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Grand Junction, was pulled over around 10:10 p.m. Wednesday, suspected of drunk driving.

“The officer smelled an alcoholic beverage on her breath,” said Lt. Matt Murray of the Denver Police Department. “She admitted to have been drinking.”

Another source tells FOX31 Denver that Bradford had been drinking three hours before the stop at Prohibition Bar on Colfax, a newly popular hangout for lawmakers and lobbyists just a few blocks from the Capitol.

Bradford did not pass a roadside sobriety test, according to Murray, but was not arrested because of an antiquated state law that allows lawmakers a level of immunity from police arrest during the legislative session.

According to Murray, a regular citizen would have been taken in for a blood or breath test, resulting in a possible DUI arrest.

But Article five, Section 16 of the Colorado Constitution says during the legislative session, except for cases of treason or a felony, Colorado lawmakers cannot be arrested during attendance at the session or committee meetings or going to and from such sessions or meetings.

In other words, they have legislative immunity. Read her apology on the House floor below.

Tell us what you think of legislative immunity on FOX31 Denver’s Facebook page.

Bradford released a statement denying that account.

“I did not invoke legislative immunity,” she said.

But police say Bradford specifically mentioned she was coming from a legislative function and had to go to another one in the morning.

Police say those are the key words that trigger the legislative immunity and police say that tied their hands.

They could not continue their DUI investigation and could only give her a lane violation traffic ticket and a cab.

Legal experts say using the constitution to avoid a DUI is clearly not the intent of the law.

“It was clearly not to protect people who are accused of drunk driving,” said attorney Dan Recht. “It was meant to make sure that for political reasons, a legislator was not in jail or prison and therefore not able to go to an important vote during a legislative session.”

House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, made the decision to suspend Bradford from her committee chairmanship until more facts are known.

Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, will serve in her stead.

Bradford says she understands that decision and looks forward to having the facts brought to light, according to information provided to FOX31 Denver by House Republican spokesman Owen Loftus.

Bradford also stated that she strongly believes she should be held to the same standard as everyone else.

But police say she never said that to them when she was pulled over, or they would have taken her in for a blood or breath test and given her a DUI if that’s what she deserved.

Bradford Floor Remarks Regarding Events of Jan. 25:

“Colleagues and friends, it’s with a deep sense of pain and remorse that I stand before you today.

I am not above the law. I am bound to the same laws and standards as every other citizen.

I am sorry that my actions have cast a shadow on this House and the entire General Assembly.

Last Wednesday evening, I was pulled over by the Denver Police for traffic violations.

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.

I responded to officers’ questions. My statements were not intended to invoke legislative privilege.

I am deeply sorry for my actions, and I apologize to each member of this body, to my constituents and to the people of Colorado.”

— Rep. Laura Bradford, Jan. 30, 2012

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