When Oklahoma representative Dean Davis was confronted by police officers outside of an Oklahoma City bar in the early hours of Thursday morning, he thought he had the perfect response – a section of the state constitution that says lawmakers shall be “privileged from arrest during the session of the Legislature.”
The police sergeant, Timothy Brewer, was not impressed with Mr Davis’ legal reasoning.
“I can, and I am right now,” Mr Brewer responded as he took the lawmaker into custody.
Mr Davis was charged with public drunkenness, a misdemeanour. According to an incident report, his trouble with law enforcement began Thursday morning shortly after 2am when Mr Brewer and his partner were finishing a shift and en route back to a police station and saw a group of people drinking on the patio of an Oklahoma City establishment called Skinny Slim’s.
It is against the law for people to drink on the patio past 2am, so, according to the police report, the officers approached the group and told them to disperse. Mr Davis, who was among the party, apparently resisted – at first refusing to put down his beverage and then threatening the officers by stating something to the effect of “you don’t know how bad you messed up [but] you will find out tomorrow.”
Mr Davis was then handcuffed and led into a police cruiser, where he directed Mr Brewer to take a card out of his wallet that included the section of the Oklahoma constitution on legislator privileges and told him to read it.
The selection from Oklahoma Constitution’s Article V, Section 22 says, “Senators and Representatives shall, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during the session of the Legislature, and in going to and returning from the same, and, for any speech or debate in either House, shall not be questioned in any other place.”
Mr Davis felt that meant that he was not subject to arrest, given that the legislature is currently in session. But Mr Brewer noted that Mr Davis was not performing his legislative duties at Skinny Slim’s, and thus was not protected by the state constitution.
The men continued to bicker during the car ride, with Mr Davis noting that he was being arrested for drunkenness despite the fact that the officers never performed a blood alcohol test on him and claimed that he had only been drinking Coca-Cola at the bar.
Mr Davis was put on probation last year after pleading no contest to a charge of driving while impaired in 2019. He was also charged with obstructing a police officer in that case.
Gov Kevin Stitt, a Republican, appeared to back the police officers’ actions in comments following the arrest.
“People sometimes make poor choices and ... they need to be held accountable,” Mr Stitt told KFOR. “So [I] don’t know any specifics about that. But, you know, we’re going to be a law-and-order state in Oklahoma, and we hold ourselves to higher standards, especially as public officials.”