Arizona Legislators: The Law Above the Law

Here in the state of Arizona (where men are men and, at least for Sheriff Paul Babeau in Pinal County, men are also sex objects), state legislators not only are the law, they’re above the law. Former Arizona Senator Scott Bundegaard invoked that concept that when he played the “I’m a state senator and the legislature is in session so you can’t arrest me,” card to Phoenix police after thumping his girl friend (of the time) on the side of a busy multi-lane thoroughfare late one night. Cops, heeding the senator’s demands, arrested the bruised girl friend and sent Bundegaard home with his parents driving as the cloying scent of alcohol indicated his continued operation of a motor vehicle wasn’t wise.

OK, Bundegaard was later forced from his position as senate majority leader (yes, a Republican) and eventually resigned from the state senate rather than face ethics and legal charges. So fucking what? Why wasn’t he arrested the night of the offence? Not to point out what would happen to thee and me, but…

I thought this might be an isolated instance but it isn’t. A few more instances illustrate my point. Current Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (she of the famous finger in Obama’s face) drove away from an alcohol-related accident when she was a state representative back in 1988. She invoked legislative immunity. The latest ploy popped up in the Arizona Star. Arizona State Senator Frank Antenori has found out–through the media–that he’s driving on a suspended license and has been ever since he failed to show up for a court hearing several years ago. Antenori had received a speeding ticket; no big deal. However, he invoked his immunity from prosecution to demand that the citation be thrown out. A Justice Court judge overruled the request and ordered Antenori to show up to deal with the charge. He, of course, being a busy man and having far many concerns to remember such a minor detail, blew the appearance off.

Likely Antenori would have driven on licenseless but the conservative Republican from Pima County (Tucson) declared his candidacy for the Congressional seat held by Gaby Giffords, thus asking for increased attention to the details of his past. Antenori, a former paramedic who served in the US Army for a tour in Iraq, is beating the “drill, baby, drill,” drum as the solution to American’s (and Arizona’s) problems. Less laws, better off we’ll all be. Now I know why he feels that way.

Where the hell did this crazy law come from? Well, back in the early years of the newly minted State of Arizona, legislators were a unruly bunch (now like the fine citizens they are today). They feared being detained by the minions of the law, thus kept from voting on important items coming up in Phoenix, so…they passed a statute protecting them from legal detention.  According to Arizona state law, legislators are granted immunity from arrest or civil process for 15 days before and during the course of a legislative session “in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace.”

Sound crazy? Click on the links. The first three will give you details on these stories; the last is a link to the AZ Criminal Lawyers (yeah, aren’t all lawyers criminal?) web site with reference to the immunity law.

 

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