WASHINGTON (WFXR) — The little-known provision of the Virginia constitution which prevents legislators from arrest for misdemeanor crimes continues to generate conversation after Del. Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg) was pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence Sunday. Hurst was not arrested or charged, despite blowing a .085 blood alcohol concentration which is .005 above the legal limit. An internal investigation of the traffic stop by Christiansburg Police is underway.
Speaking to WFXRtv.com from his office in Washington, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said he was surprised when reading the reports. Kaine is a former governor and lieutenant governor, meaning he would have been president of the Virginia State Senate during his term as lieutenant governor.
“To be honest with you, I did not remember the law that way,” Kaine said when asked about Article IV, Section 9 of the Virginia constitution and its application in the Hurst traffic stop.
“When I read the stories about Del. Hurst, I was surprised. Many of the legislators are lawyers and I knew that there was a provision that allows a legislator lawyer who has a case pending during the legislative session to ask for a continuance.”
He added, “I didn’t realize that a legislator could not be arrested for an offense. So might I have known that 15 years ago? Maybe, but I was surprised by it and I don’t think that should be the law.”
An amendment was filed Thursday, Jan. 31, by State Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) that could eliminate immunity for lawmakers while the Virginia General Assembly is in session. The new amendment would allow the arrest of a member of the General Assembly during the session, but that’s only if a judge issues a process for arrest with authorization from the Commonwealth’s Attorney or the law enforcement agency where the offense occurred.