Earlier this month, Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) requested a legal opinion from Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson in an effort to clarify misconceptions relating to Minnesota Constitution, article IV, section 10 as it relates to arresting lawmakers for criminal conduct, including DWI. Attorney General Swanson’s full response is attached. Sen. Latz released the following statement:
“I join Attorney General Swanson, together with the U.S. Supreme Court, multiple state supreme courts and state attorneys general, in concurring that the so-called privilege from arrest provision included in the U.S. Constitution and our own Minnesota constitution applies only to civil arrest and does not apply to any criminal act, including driving while intoxicated. Minnesota legislators can and should be—and have been—arrested for driving drunk.
I further agree with Attorney General Swanson that ‘it would be helpful and beneficial for the Minnesota legislature to give additional direction to legislative members, the public, law enforcement, and the courts. Yet, I’m not convinced putting something in law twice will actually resolve any misunderstanding of current law. Instead, I propose to meet our shared goal ‘to clarify that state legislators have no immunity from arrest for criminal conduct, including driving while intoxicated,’ through a coordinated, robust education effort.
First, we should examine the possibility of doing away with the wallet-sized card for legislators completely, as there is no evidence of a lawmaker being detained for civil arrest in over 200 years. If the card is deemed necessary, we should make the language on the card absolutely clear: the Minnesota constitution does not provide lawmakers privilege from arrest for criminal activity, including DWI. We should train our police officers and sheriff’s deputies on the fact that all drunk drivers—no matter who they are—should be duly arrested. And, most importantly, we need to make it clear to all new and veteran state legislators that they have absolutely no immunity from arrest for drunk driving.”