House Pro Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, who was charged with driving under the influence Thursday after refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test, was co-author of legislation dealing with the state’s implied consent laws.
Under the implied consent laws, a law enforcement officer who has “reasonable grounds and probable cause” to believe someone is driving under the influence can require that person to submit to a chemical test. The person who refuses to submit to “the chemical test,” such as a breathalyzer, loses his or her license for at least 90 days.
The suspension for not submitting to the test would be in addition to the suspension and penalty that would occur if convicted of driving under the influence.
Snowden, an attorney, told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, which first reported the story, he failed the field sobriety test because of bad knees and did not submit to the chemical test because he had heard lawyers say it was best not to. He said he was not intoxicated but engaged in activity on his cell phone when he collided with another vehicle in his hometown of Meridian.
In 2013, Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, introduced and passed legislation that would give people convicted of a DUI the option of having a device – ignition-interlock device – placed in their vehicle for a period of time rather than having their driver’s license suspended. The device would require the driver to take a breathalyzer before the vehicle would crank.
The bill also made changes to the state’s implied consent law to conform to the new regulations concerning the ignition-interlock device. Snowden was one of several House members to co-sponsor the legislation introduced by Gunn.
Asked if Gunn had any comments on Snowden’s arrest, spokesperson Meg Annison said, the speaker is out of the country, but “We do not have any details at the moment, other than what we are reading and hearing. We take issues like this very seriously.”
Snowden, who holds the No. 2 position in the House, did not response to inquiries Friday.
In 2016, Snowden’s counterpart in the Senate, Pro Tem Terry Burton, R-Newton, was found not guilty of a DUI charge in Scott County. He said cough syrup he took right after a wreck resulted in a “false positive” being recorded on his breathalyzer test.
In 2014, state Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, pleaded no contest to a DUI charge. With a no contest plea, an accused does not admit guilt but accepts the punishment without going to trial.
Legislators have the opportunity to take part in various social functions – often conducted by lobbyists – where liquor, beer and wine are available.
“We are exposed to more social largess than the average population,” said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, who said he did not know about the Snowden case. “That is no excuse, just a fact. But some people have more tolerance than others.”
Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, said, “We do get invitations to a lot of activities, especially during the session. You are put in positions where you have to be careful.”