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Video: Photo radar tickets aren't going to state legislators

The cynics among us have long believed that elected officials tend to be treated better by the law than the rest of us -- and now, they have more evidence to bolster that theory.

A new report reveals that state legislators are exempted from the current photo-radar system because of what's described as a glitch in the system -- and those very same legislators appear to be responsible for fixing it.

This isn't the first time such a driving-related inequity has surfaced.

In January 2012, as we reported at the time, Representative Laura Bradford was stopped for making an illegal in the vicinity of the State Capitol -- and not only did the officer smell alcohol on her breath, but he also found a gun, the possession of which is a misdemeanor when the person in question is under the influence.

Rather than booking Bradford, however, the cop took an entirely different course of action seemingly dictated by the legislative license plates on her vehicle. After phoning a sergeant to ask for advice, he called a cab for Bradford and even retrieved the gun for her.

Bradford didn't skate: The officer spoke up, and the Denver Police Department subsequently admitted that the entire incident had been mishandled. This time around, though, there's nothing the cops can do about a situation that smacks of blatant favoritism.

Senator Mike Johnston's legislative plate.
Senator Mike Johnston's legislative plate.

The scoop comes from CBS4's Brian Maass, who reveals that numerous photo-radar tickets racked up by state senator Mike Johnston, whose legislative license plate reads "33," were instead sent to a woman with a Colorado vanity plate bearing the same digits.

But this wasn't a simple mix-up. As Colorado Department of Revenue spokeswoman Daria Serna confirms, legislative plates are registered to a person rather than the vehicle, so they're not in the Department of Motor Vehicles system. Hence, legislators aren't sent tickets related to them.

Johnston with Brian Maass.
Johnston with Brian Maass.

To his credit, Johnston sat down with Maass to discuss the matter. During their conversation, he said he'd contacted the woman who received tickets intended for him and sent her money to cover the cost.

Johnston also makes it clear that the law as written isn't fair and suggests that something needs to be done to close the loophole -- and his comments may actually be sincere.

Then-principal Mike Johnston with Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Then-principal Mike Johnston with Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Photo by Mark Manger

A former Westword cover subject, Johnston went from being an innovative principal praised by Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign to a lawmaker behind ideas like the Summer of Safety program.

In other words, he seems like precisely the kind of person who would actually support legislation to remove a special privilege that benefits him. But whether enough of his colleagues will join this effort is another question. After all, who wouldn't love to have a license to speed?

Here's the CBS4 report.

More from our Politics archive: "Laura Bradford: Denver Police apology for special treatment step toward openness."


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