TACOMA, Wash. - Legislators headed to work can't get speeding tickets -- or so says the Washington State Patrol and at least one local police department.
A spokesman for WSP says Washington lawmakers are constitutionally protected from receiving noncriminal traffic tickets during a legislative session, as well as 15 days before. A spokeswoman says The Tacoma Police Department abides by a similar policy.
State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins says the privilege not only applies to moving violations near the state Capitol in Olympia, but potentially anywhere in the state.
The logic? Detaining lawmakers on the road -- even for the time it takes to issue them a speeding ticket -- may delay them from getting to the Capitol to vote.
This is not a new tradition.
"There were European despots who our framers could see trumping up charges against political rivals, and having them arrested on the way to Parliament so they wouldn't be there to vote. So they put really in the fine print of the constitution this prohibition on impeding legislators on their way to session," said Bob Calkins with the Washington State Patrol.
Calkins says only about half a dozen lawmakers every year escape tickets under this language in the constitution. But the WSP wants to make it clear this only applies to speeding citations - lawmakers who are caught driving recklessly or drunk don't get any passes.