State law lifts lawmakers above citizens Shelby reps say law should be changed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 10, 2004

A state law originally intended to prevent officials from detaining lawmakers in order to ensure favorable votes for their own legislation has been abused by at least one state legislator, according to an article in the Montgomery Advertiser.

Authorities stopped state Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, for suspected drunken driving last week, but instead of arresting him, a Montgomery County sheriff’s supervisor drove him home, The Advertiser reported.

State law prevents officers from arresting or ticketing lawmakers for offenses other than felonies during a legislative session. The law specifically protects legislators en-route or on the way from a session.

Some Shelby County lawmakers said this week that the law was never intended to protect legislators from such offenses.

&uot;We should have repealed that law a long time ago,&uot; said Cam Ward, R-49th District. &uot;I think the law has really been abused.&uot;

Sen. Steve French, R-15th District, said the law &uot;was never intended as a get-out-of-jail free card.&uot;

Rep. Jim McClendon, R-50th District, called the incident with Holmes &uot;a good example of folks creating a special class for themselves where they are above the law.&uot;

Lawmakers said they would support revising the state law, or repealing it.

&uot;I’d vote for any bill that subjects us to the same law as anybody else would be,&uot; Ward said.

French said the law should be changed.

&uot;I certainly would be in support of tightening it up to specify its intent. I don’t think Mr. Holmes’ actions ought to be covered by it,&uot; French said.

McClendon said the law &uot;is not pertinent&uot; today