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Should Arizona Keep Legislative Immunity for State Lawmakers?

Immediately after a February altercation on a Phoenix freeway, Aubry Ballard’s then-boyfriend, former state Senator Scott Bundgaard was able to avoid arrest because of a little-know principle called legislative immunity. Ballard, on the other hand, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor assault.

Examples like the situation with Bundgaard have led a state lawmaker to introduce legislation repealing legislative immunity, reports the Associated Press.

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.”

Charges were eventually filed against Bundgaard after the legislative session was over, but critics cite the incident as an example of unfair and outdated protection given to legislators.

“The question is should legislators have a get-out-of-jail free card,” said state Senator Steve Gallardo, who introduced the legislation. “And I really think voters would come out and say no - they should not have this card.”

Legislative immunity also helped Governor Jan Brewer get out of an arrest for suspicion of DUI during a freeway accident in 1988 when she was also a legislator, according to the Associated Press. Although she didn’t invoke the privilege, police officers identified her as a state lawmaker and decided they couldn’t arrest her.

Gallardo’s bill has been assigned to a Senate committee, but we’ll see if it actually gets to the November ballot.

For more information on the principle of legislative immunity, see our Related Resources section.

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