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Ethics Tutorial - Colorado General Assembly

- Legislative Immunity - 20 of 25

Background

Legislative immunity, which is provided to members of the Colorado General Assembly by article V, section 16 of the state constitution, is designed to preserve the integrity of the legislative process and protect the legislative branch from intimidation by the executive and judicial branches of government and private parties.  It grants legislators immunity from civil lawsuits and state criminal prosecution, but not federal criminal prosecution, and a privilege against being compelled to testify or produce documents in legal proceedings with respect to matters that fall within the "sphere of legitimate legislative activity."  The "sphere of legitimate legislative activity" includes actions taken during official legislative proceedings conducted in accordance with constitutional procedural requirements and other activities that are integral to the legislative (i.e., lawmaking) function but does not include actions taken outside of official legislative proceedings that are not integral to the legislative function.

Hypothetical

Criminal prosecution - legislator to legislator statements

During heated floor debate on a bill that would repeal all state restrictions on large-capacity ammunition magazines, a legislator who opposes the bill claims that the bill sponsor is only carrying the bill because a Colorado-based firearms manufacturer bribed him.

Question

Assuming that the accusation of bribery is true, does legislative immunity prevent criminal prosecution of the accused legislator?
Select No, legislative immunity does not protect a legislator from criminal prosecution.  It only protects a legislator from being a defendant in a civil lawsuit or from otherwise being questioned as part of a civil proceeding.
Select No, legislative immunity does not prevent criminal prosecution of the legislator.  Prosecution for bribery does not require a protected inquiry into a legislator's motives for the legislative acts of sponsoring or voting on a bill because the alleged crime occurred when the legislator accepted  money in exchange for a promise to sponsor the bill and could be proven even if the legislator had not actually sponsored the bill.
Select Yes, the purpose of legislative immunity is to prevent intimidation of legislators through, among other things, questioning of their motives for taking legislative actions.  Because sponsorship of legislation is a legitimate legislative function that is within the "sphere of legitimate legislative activity," a legislator's improper motivation for sponsoring legislation cannot form the basis of a criminal prosecution of the legislator.
Select No, because a legislator's compensation is prescribed by law in accordance with article V, section 6 of the Colorado constitution and such compensation does not include bribes, taking a bribe as compensation for what is normally a legislative act of sponsoring legislation makes the sponsorship of the legislation violate a constitutional rule of procedure that governs the legislative process and therefore places the sponsorship outside of the protected "sphere of legitimate legislative activity."


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Last updated: 09 OCT 2015


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