Arizona DPS director seeks clarity on immunity law after speeding fiasco
PHOENIX — Arizona’s top law enforcement official said Thursday he was seeking clarity on the immunity law that allowed a state legislator to get away with multiple speeding violations and brag about it.
“I’ve asked my general counsel to review this along with the attorney general,” Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Col. Frank Milstead told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes.
“If you look at the statute the way it’s written, it talks about the only time you can arrest or do something to a legislator during the session is if it amounts to a breach of the peace, if it is a felony crime or it’s treason. But it does literally say that they are immune from civil process or misdemeanor crimes.”
Milstead said there probably were lawyers who would argue both sides of the issue.
“I think it would be great to have some clarity for Arizona law enforcement on what to do, because when you do run across somebody with the temerity of Mr. Mosley, it would be nice to be able to do something to change that braggadocios attitude of what they can and can’t do during the session,” he said.
Last week, video came to light of a March 27 traffic stop in which Rep. Paul Mosley (R-Lake Havasu City) boasted to an unidentified La Paz County Sheriff’s deputy that he had been going 120 mph earlier and that he’d even gone 140 mph before. He’d been clocked doing 97 mph in a 55 mph zone on a highway near Parker.
“I think this just brings to light an opportunity for leadership and for the legislative process to make a decision and to update what is being done and to then go forward from here,” Milstead said.
“Obviously, he brought a very complex situation to light.”
When asked for his interpretation of the immunity statute, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard issued a statement.
“Legislative immunity is narrowly applicable and relates only to legislative duties during session – it doesn’t apply to felonies and other serious crimes and doesn’t protect legislators from any consequence once session is over,” the statement said.
“However, until the courts precisely define the parameters of legislative immunity, it’s unclear exactly how they will interpret the constitutional provision.”
Mesnard said he wouldn’t comment further until the House Ethics Committee had reviewed a complaint filed against Mosley.
Earlier this week, it was learned that Mosley had been pulled over and warned by state troopers multiple times. Milstead said law enforcement did what it could in those situations.
“The way we sit today, I believe that deputy in La Paz County acted appropriately and I think my troopers that have stopped him in the past during session have acted appropriately,” he said.
A veteran of more than three decades of law enforcement, Milstead said most government officials he’s pulled over have been humble and apologetic.
“What is outrageous about this is just the temerity of Mr. Mosley to think that this is a good idea,” he said.
“And I would tell anybody who’s driving those speeds, when something goes wrong at 100 mph and above, it goes wrong very, very fast and the consequences are very dire.”