Immunity law needs to change

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy Gil Robinson did his job this past Wednesday when he stopped a driver for suspected driving while intoxicated.

However, you won’t believe what his job required of him.

Robinson had to let the driver go with not so much as a ticket.

Why, you ask? The fellow Deputy Robinson pulled over was not your average Joe.

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, was behind the wheel when the car was pulled over.

Now so far nothing about this story has been that hard to believe, but here is the twist:

state law prevents law officers from arresting legislators for crimes (except treason, breach of peace or felonies) during session or as they make their way to and from session.

They can’t even be given a ticket.

That’s right. But every story has at least two sides.

Holmes has said that the deputy’s accusations are &uot;totally untrue,&uot; that he was simply driving home from the state legislature when his truck began to overheat requiring that he stop to take a look.

That is certainly a plausible explanation. An equally plausible story is the one told by Deputy Robinson: that Holmes’ breath had a distinct odor of alcohol and that his speech was slurred.

Regardless which account is true, the deputy did not trust Holmes to drive himself home, so he called for a supervisor to drive the representative home.

Robinson stayed to guard Holmes’ pick-up.

That is the end of the story. But can you imagine what the end of the story could have been?

Imagine that the deputy’s account is indeed accurate and that the driver of the vehicle was impaired by alcohol.

Now imagine that the deputy recognized the vehicle as that of a legislator, was familiar with the law that kept lawmakers from being accountable for their actions and chose not to stop the car.

Perhaps Holmes would have made it home with no trouble or perhaps the story could have ended in tragic fashion.

Regardless, this law needs to be changed.

Legislators are asked to do the people’s business, but that does not require that the people put their representatives above the law.

The state Legislature has more than enough on its plate this session; finding a way to balance the state budget is of paramount importance.

I am confident that our legislative delegation will lead this charge and that they can do so with time to spare.

Here’s hoping that my assumption is true and that a few precious moments of this session can be invested to change the law that kept Rep. Holmes above the law this past Wednesday.

It is an archaic and dangerous law that should be changed.

Tim Prince is the publisher of the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at