By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A freshman state lawmaker from Nashville was charged with drunken driving and violation of the implied consent law after a traffic stop early Friday morning.
Nashville police stopped Rep. Bill Beck and arrested him after he declined to complete a roadside sobriety or a breath alcohol test. Beck is a first-term Democrat who represents portions of downtown and eastern Nashville.
“I am innocent, and I will be vigorously contesting the charges,” Beck said in a written statement. “I look forward to continuing to serve the people of the 51st district and fighting each and every day on their behalf.”
The arresting police officer said in an affidavit that Beck’s truck was traveling with two wheels in the turn lane and that the lawmaker had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.
“I asked Mr. Beck to get out of the truck and noticed a stain on his tie, his shirt was half tucked in, and his pants were unzipped,” Metro Police Officer Bradley Nave wrote in the affidavit.
Beck initially agreed to perform a series of field sobriety tests, the affidavit said, but the lawmaker did not want to continue when he was asked to walk and turn. Beck, the officer wrote, did not want to submit to a breath test.
The lawmaker told the officer that he had not had any alcohol to drink. WKRN-TV talked to Beck about 6 a.m. Friday after he was released from the jail.
“Don’t believe that I’m guilty,” Beck told the news station. “Had a long day.”
State lawmakers spent much of Thursday debating and ultimately passing Tennessee’s annual $33.8 billion spending plan.
Other notable drunken driving cases involving state lawmakers include:
— Rep. Curry Todd, best known as the sponsor of a state law that allows people with handgun-carry permits to be armed in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, was arrested in Nashville in a 2011 traffic stop. Todd failed a roadside sobriety test and police found a loaded .38-caliber gun in a holster stuffed between the driver’s seat and center console. He later pleaded guilty to drunken driving and gun charges, but has twice been re-elected to the Legislature since.
— After being arrested for DUI and other charges in 2007, then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Briley, D-Nashville, listed the name of a female lobbyist for trial lawyers as his next-of-kin or contact person. Briley did not seek re-election in 2008 after pleading guilty to drunken driving.
— Then-Sen. Jerry Cooper, former chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, in 2007 pleaded no contest to drunken driving after his SUV overturned several times on Interstate 24. It happened after Morrison Democrat had attended at least three legislative receptions in Nashville. Cooper resigned later that year after he was fined a record $120,000 by the Registry of Election Finance for moving campaign funds into his personal account.
Note: This updates, expands and replaces previous post.