Under the Dome

Highway Patrol: We can't investigate senator's 145 mph joyride

Citing a little known state law that effectively gives legislators immunity from self-incrimination, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol said the agency cannot investigate claims that Sen. Don East was driving on public roads at speeds twice the posted limit.

Sgt. Jorge Brewer, spokesman for the patrol, said troopers typically must witness a motorist speeding to write a ticket, except in cases where there is an investigation into an accident involving death or serious injury.

But even if the patrol was interested in ticketing Sen. Don East, who a fellow legislator said Monday had taken him on a 145-mile per hour joyride in a muscle car on U.S. 52, Brewer pointed to a state law potentially giving East immunity:

§ 120‑9. Freedom of speech. The members shall have freedom of speech and debate in the General Assembly, and shall not be liable to impeachment or question, in any court or place out of the General Assembly, for words therein spoken.

The history of the statute goes all the way back to 1787 and the creation of the state. It has been amended several times over the intervening centuries, most recently in 2000. Then, the title of the law was changed from "Freedom of speech and protection from arrest," to the current shorter title.

But the title change does not affect the basic effect of the law. No state legislator can be prosecuted in state court for statements made on the floor of the state House or Senate, even if that legislator effectively confesses to be party to a crime.

Of course, in this case it was not the senator who incriminated himself, but a colleague who said he was in the passenger seat when East, a Republican from Pilot Mountain and retired police officer, violated the law.

Sen. Stan Bingham, a Republican from Denton, said Monday he and East had been driving their motorcycles on curvy roads in excess of 100 miles per hour before the two got into East's Dodge Charger SRT8.

"So I got in the car, we're driving along 25-30 miles per hour for a little short distance until we get out to (U.S.) 52, and there's a ramp there, and Don said, 'How far do you think it is down to the end of the ramp?' And I said, 'I dunno, maybe 300-400 yards.' God knows, we were running 145 miles per hour by the time we hit the end of the ramp."

The speed limit on that stretch of U.S 52 is 65 miles per hour. East has refused to comment on whether Bingham's account of their speed is accurate, beyond saying he "pleads not guilty."


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You're pathetic in your

You're pathetic in your apathy that this behaviour is ok from our elected official, our political leaders, our example of success from hard work.


East owes the families of those 3 boys who dies in a high speed car wreck last week an apology for his stupidity.

If Bush Can Get Away With It

I guess if NASCAR drive Kyle Bush can get away with it on a back road near Lake Norman, a state legislator can get away with it on a four-lane, divided highway. Fankly, they both should be put in jail!

What's pathetic is that this

What's pathetic is that this is even a news story.  I'll bet thousands of stories like this have been told around the legislative building over the years.  It's obviously a guy telling an exagerated story trying to get a laugh with his colleagues.  But then one person out of a million finds a way to get offended by this, shamefully tries to tie it to the recent tragic teen car fatalities and the media gleefully helps blow it sky high out of proportion!  Rediculous!

The narrow blue line never dulls.

It runs very very deep.  What really is troublesome is that both were so confident of their teflon coating, that they took up expensive legislative time bragging about their illegal actions.  Wonder what the Senate Staff,  that we were paying, did during all this good ole boy talk.

legislative immunity from prosecution

Obviously, this statute protects SPEECH BY A LEGISLATOR IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, not outside it, and not by another legislator.  Of course he should be held accountable for this dangerous vehicular behavior.  And he's a jerk who should not be reelected by anyone who values life and limb on our public highways.  What a sorry example for our young people.

Highway Patrol: We can't investigate senators

Leaders set examples, and above all follow the laws they make.  If they don't believe the law fair and necessary, they should change or eliminate them.

Punish them!

They may be immune from law enforcement using their statements to arrest and convict them, but it won't give them immunity from the voters when they come up for re-election. They can kiss that goodbye and rightfully so. If they're this stupid and uncaring about the safety of others, then they don't need to be involved in making any laws for the rest of us. You just have to wonder what goes through the minds of some people. Apparently not much common sense!

Not quite the same as immunity


They aren't immune from arrest.  It's just that the law enforcement isn't allowed to use statements made in the General Assembly as evidence for arrest or otherwise.

If they'd actually caught the politician speeding down the road, they certainly could have been arrested.


This is BS

How can they represent the public when they dont have ONE thing that the public has!
Their own insurance, pension, social security, and now immunity!

Elite Deviance

these guys are beyond pathetic

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