On Tuesday, the Montana Free Press reported that Jason Ellsworth, the Republican President Pro Tempore of the Montana Senate, has been charged with reckless driving and obstructing a peace officer following an incident that took place in May.
According to the report, Ellsworth was clocked at going 88 in a 55 mph zone at 10:20pm on March 23.
"The officer reported a verbal altercation with Ellsworth in which the senator claimed he was exempt from arrest because he was a lawmaker traveling for legislative business," reported Mara Silvers. "The charges were filed by Broadwater County Attorney Cory Swanson on May 26. Ellsworth is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court on Aug. 3."
The report noted that when Ellsworth was stopped, he pulled up the Montana Constitution on his phone and claimed that he was acting in his capacity as a legislator, so could not be arrested.
"The officer clarified that Ellsworth was in transit to Helena, less than half an hour from where the stop occurred, for a meeting that began the following morning," said the report. "Ellsworth agreed and continued to paraphrase the relevant section of the Constitution, even as the officer instructed him to step back and return to his car."
Ellsworth did not respond to requests for comment. However, a spokesperson for the Montana Senate Republicans said that Ellsworth was driving to Helena "after a long day dealing with a family medical issue" and reached out to apologize to the officer after the incident.
State lawmakers frequently find themselves in trouble when they try to use their official position to get out of traffic stops. In New Mexico, one Republican lawmaker, Monica Youngblood, begged an officer to let her go after a DUI stop because "I fight for you guys."