Monday 28 November 2022

A Case of Abuse of Power? Legislator Threatens Traffic Official For Traffic Stop

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26 November 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – A video posted by Alex Mena CR on YouTube shows Nueva República legislator Marolin Azofeifa, threatening a traffic police officer who stopped the car, in which she was riding, for not have a license plate and had disrespected a red light.

Screen capture of video of the traffic stop of the car in which legislator Marolin Azofeifa was the passenger

The legislator was in the passenger seat and the man who was driving is not a congressional official. The events occurred after midnight Sunday.

The car they were traveling in was a rental, and a piece of paper taped to the windshield with an alleged Legislative Assembly license plate.

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“Gentleman, please allow me and record this. Mr. Officer. I am legislator Marolin Azofeifa and I want you to know that article 110 of the Constitution gives me ‘the forum’ and covers me and the person who drives me because I am inside this vehicle, and hopefully that you know it, so in the Courts of Justice, you and I are going to see each other,” Azofeifa told the officer.

Article 110 of Costa Rica’s Constitution gives legislators immunity against arrest for “civil reasons” and “criminal reasons”  unless they consent to the detention or previously suspended by the Assembly.

This immunity, however, does not take effect in the case of a flagrant act, or when the legislator resigns it.

According to the 14-minute long video, the traffic police officer is joined by Fuerza Publica (National Pollice) officers in asking the driver to stop, with sirens on, and still, the driver did not stop. You can even see where the red traffic light. The driver later alleged that the street is under construction and that is why he did not stop at the traffic light.

Legislator Marolin Azofeifa

“You see the license plate (referring to the paper plate on the inside of the windshiled_ that this car has, you are seeing the license plate that this car has,” says the legislator.

The officer explains that they are no seeing the paper plate and nothing in the back window and again asks the driver for his license.

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“No, you are speaking with legislator Marolin Azofeifa,” the legislator tells her.

“And is there a problem? Are you going to intervene in a police procedure, madam? ”, The officer replies.

“No. I am telling you why you have to respect,” the legislator tells him.

“Do not impose your position on me,” said the traffic officer who made it clear that the jurisdiction of the legislator is towards her person, not the driver or the vehicle.

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After reviewing the license and paperwork, the driver is issued a traffic ticket (“parte” in Spanish). The details of the parte was not been made public.

Analysis

What is disturbing of this situation is legislators act, demanding the officials to let the situation slide, demanding her alleged power in the situation and threats made to the officer who were doing their job.

The legislator may be right in her allegations, but it is the interpretation of the law by the traffic official at the scene that applies at the moment.

Every driver, including the driver hired by the legislator, has the right to appeal any and all traffic tickets within 10 working days. Attached to the appeal can be evidence or proof supporting the driver’s position, any error (procedural or interpretation of the law) made by the official at the scene.

In this case, the driver can use the articles of immunity, if the legislator is correct and the Legislative Assembly ratifies it, to justify his running the red light.

Both the legislator and police officials at the scene were doing their job. In this case, the officials were professional in the execution of their duty, meanwhile, the legislator’s actions are questionable.

 

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