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Opening Arguments

Breach of the peace

If Hoosiers had voted for Jill Long for governor instead of Mitch Daniels, this man would have been our lieutenant governor:

Dennie Oxley Jr., a former state legislator and last year's Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, avoided arrest on alcohol-related charges early Friday by telling police he was serving in the General Assembly, according an Indianapolis Police report.

Oxley, 38, of Taswell, appeared intoxicated with "extremely slurred" speech, balance problems and bloodshot eyes when police found him walking away from a woman lying in the parking lot of a downtown Indianapolis gas station, the report said.

Apparently, authorities are looking into charging Oxley now that his deception has come to light, and the incident might also complicate the ease with which he gets out from under a dui and traffice accident in February. Plenty of news stories about all this, and a lot of action in the blogosphere. Hoosier Access calls it "Int-Oxley-Cated II, the Sequel," and Advance Indiana says "Oxley Meltdown Continues." Some of the stories and blog posts refer to the constitutional provision providing immunity for legislators in session, but only the Blue Indiana blog (as far as I can tell) questions it by saying it needs to looked at because it "creates a class of citizens above the law."

I think that's the interesting angle.  Article IV Secion 8 of the Indiana Constitution: "Senators and representatives, in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace, shall be privileged from arrest during the session of the General Assembly, and in going to and returning from same." So getting falling-down drunk or driving under the influence aren't breaches of the peace? How about killing someone while driving under the influence?

I'm not sure this immunity is as extensive as people seem to think it is. "Breach of the peace" can cover a lot of ground, as the Wisconsin Court of Appeals has held. That state has the same exemption provision we do and even has the "except treason, felony and breach of the peace" wording. The term "breach of peace," the court held in 2002, refers to all misdemeanors. Our courts might see it the same way.