A state lawmaker was arrested on charges of extreme drunken driving after trying to get out of it by identifying himself as a legislator — and later told the officer “you’ll get yours,” authorities say.
Reports from the state Department of Public Safety said Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, was pulled over late Wednesday night on a freeway in southeast Maricopa County after the officer saw the pickup truck drifting between lanes.
Officer Christian Williams said Cook, 50, who had bloodshot and watery eyes, explained that he was trying to pick up a cellphone that was on the floorboard.
Asked for his license, registration and proof of insurance, Cook handed over the last two, along with his Arizona House of Representatives identification card, Williams said. Only after a follow-up request did Cook produce the license.
Williams said that when he asked Cook to get out of his vehicle, he responded, “No, I’m not getting out,” and said there wasn’t any need for this. He also said Cook said he was safe to drive, followed by, “Do you know what you’re doing son? You’re making a mistake.”
The officer also said that after Cook failed field sobriety tests and was taken to the DPS substation he told the lawmaker to watch his head as he got out of the patrol car.
“Cook stated, ‘I’m fine, don’t worry, you’ll get yours,’” Williams wrote.
Subsequent breath blood-alcohol-level tests came in at 0.158 and 0.152.
The presumed level for drunken driving is 0.08; anything over 0.15 is considered extreme driving under the influence of alcohol and carries a mandatory 30-day jail term and a fine of at least $250.
Cook did not return calls and text messages seeking comment Thursday.
Just elected to his second term, Cook represents a district that stretches from northeast of Globe through Kearny and Hayden down to San Manuel and Mammoth and west to Coolidge, Florence and parts of Casa Grande and Eloy.
The arrest — and Cook’s flashing of his House ID — renews the controversy over “legislative immunity.” That constitutional provision says members of the Legislature “shall be privileged from arrest in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace.”
The protection is aimed at preventing law enforcement from arresting or detaining lawmakers to keep them from going to the Capitol or casting a vote. But the privilege, while prohibiting actual “arrest,” does not preclude a legislator from being cited and ordered to appear in court at a later time.
What it also does not protect, according to Gov. Doug Ducey, is drunken driving, reckless driving or criminal speeding (driving at least 20 miles per hour over the posted limit).
The governor issued a directive earlier this year after Rep. Paul Mosley, R-Lake Havasu City, was pulled over by a La Paz County sheriff’s deputy for driving 97 in a 55 mph zone.
The deputy in that case recorded Mosley boasting about driving up to 140 miles per hour, saying that he could do that because he had legislative immunity.
That incident resulted in Ducey directing police officers under his control, notably DPS, to cite and, if necessary, arrest lawmakers whose bad driving is more than simple speeding.
Williams, in arresting Cook and holding him until he was released to his wife, was clearly following the governor’s directive.
Ducey was alerted to the arrest and is “alarmed by the allegations,” a spokesman said Thursday.
After the incident with Mosley, Ducey raised the possibility of abolishing the privilege entirely. But it would take a public vote to repeal that provision in the state Constitution.
Incoming House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said he is “disappointed and saddened by Rep. Cook for failing to meet the standard expected of all Arizonans, much less an elected official.”
Bowers said he wants to “learn all the facts” and speak with Cook and other lawmakers before deciding what action the House will take against him.