Lawmaker Who Admitted Drinking, Driving Speaks

State Rep. Laura Bradford Cited For Illegal Turn

The state lawmaker who police said admitted she was drinking and driving last week spoke out to her colleagues in the State House on Monday.

State Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Grand Junction, spoke on the House Floor, "It’s with a deep sense of pain and remorse that I stand before you."

Bradford told lawmakers she was pulled over last Wednesday by Denver police, but she did not explain why.

"I was driving my personal car with legislative license plates. In response to the officer's inquiry, I stated that I was leaving a legislative function, was on my way home and was expected to be at the capitol the next day," Bradford said.

Police said Bradford was stopped while driving in the 1700 block of Pennsylvania at about 10 p.m. Wednesday after a Denver officer saw her make an improper turn and drive in an "inappropriate manner."

The car she was driving had license plates indicating she was a state lawmaker, according to Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson.

"I responded to officers questions," Bradford said. "My statements were not intended to invoke legislative privilege."

The officer said he smelled alcohol on her breath and Bradford said she had been drinking, Jackson said.

"She was given a field sobriety test, and there were enough indicators that the officer on the scene wanted to take her into custody for a blood test," said Denver Police spokesman Lt. Matt Murray. "But under the constitution, we couldn’t detain her."

Instead, the officer cited Bradford for careless driving and making an illegal turn, Murray said. Her car was parked and she took a cab to her Denver residence.

However, 7NEWS spoke with legal experts, as well as Democrat and Republican lawmakers, who said the law was misapplied.

"It’s poppycock that she’s immune from arrest for driving while drunk," said Professor Tom Russell with the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. "The Denver police are giving legislators a break that they don’t deserve under the Constitution. Rep. Bradford may make the law, but she’s not above the law."

"In the current situation, Denver police may have applied the privilege more broadly than the Constitution does," said Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs.

Gardner said the provision is intended to prevent the governor or judicial branch from interfering with lawmakers as they work.

Bradford was given a traffic ticket and her car was locked up, Jackson said. She took a cab to her Denver residence. Jackson said he had no further details on the traffic stop.

Bradford released a statement Friday night that said, "I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of the people of my district and Colorado. I understand the speaker’s decision, and I look forward to having the facts brought to light."

During Monday's speech before lawmakers, Bradford apologized.

"I am deeply sorry for my actions," Bradford said. "And I apologize to each and every member of this body, to my constituents back home, to all the people of Colorado."

Bradford was suspended from her post as chairman of the House Local Government Committee after she was given the traffic ticket, according to Owen K. Loftus, majority communications director.

The Legal Precedent

The Colorado Constitution says:The members of the general assembly shall, in all cases except treason or felony, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the sessions of their respective houses, or any committees thereof, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either house, or any committees thereof, they shall not be questioned in any other place

The law was effective the day Colorado became a state on Aug. 1, 1876 and was amended only once -- in 1975.

The Denver Police Department Operations Manual says:205.07 Violations by Colorado Legislators (1) Pursuant to Article 5, Section 16 of the Colorado Constitution, no member of the Colorado General Assembly may be arrested while in route to or from legislative sessions, except for treason or felony violations. (2) Traffic citations may be issued, however the legislator shall not be detained for an undue amount of time. (3) Should an officer have reason to believe a legislator is driving under the influence AND there is an accident with serious injuries or a fatality involved, the legislator will be arrested and processed for the suspected felony; DUI violation. (4) In the absence of felony violations, should an officer have reason to believe a legislator is driving under the influence, the officer may cite for a violation which caused an accident or was the reason for a traffic stop. For the safety and welfare of the public and the legislator, the officer will arrange for other transportation for the legislator and his/her vehicle will be parked and locked.

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