An Edmond police officer accused Oklahoma Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) of “not being truthful” ahead of his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence outside a bar just after midnight Thursday, Oct. 27.
According to the police report and body camera footage provided by the Edmond Police Department, Martinez initially misled officers about where he had been and how many drinks he had consumed, minimized the distance he was planning to drive home and falsely claimed the Legislature was in “probably like three special sessions.”
Officers made contact with Martinez at 11:41 p.m., and he was ultimately placed under arrest at 12:23 a.m. After he had failed multiple field sobriety tests but before he was officially placed under arrest, Martinez sat on a parking lot curb for about 20 minutes as officers attempted to verify his claim that the Legislature was in special session.
“My understanding is the constitution of Oklahoma says that I can’t be detained on my way to go represent the people,” Martinez said, referencing Article 5, Section 22 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
Article 5, Section 22 reads:
Senators and Representatives shall, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during the session of the Legislature, and in going to and returning from the same, and, for any speech or debate in either House, shall not be questioned in any other place.
The constitutional provision is widely understood to prevent a legislator from being impeded while they are on their way to or from the State Capitol to take action during a legislative session. The provision does not grant legislators the equivalent of diplomatic immunity.
Edmond officers Sgt. Roger Shortt and Maria Serafin — as well as a third unidentified officer — communicated with dispatch and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to determine whether the Legislature was in session and whether the constitutional provision prevented Martinez’s arrest.
“We’ve been in special session a long time,” Martinez said. “It never ends.”
Shortt asked who oversees legislative special sessions.
“The governor and the speaker of the House and the president pro temp of the Senate,” Martinez said. “Would you like me to call Kevin Stitt right now?”
Several news articles about Martinez’s arrest omitted the context of his question regarding Stitt, whom Martinez had publicly called “racist” at the end of May’s regular legislative session.
Martinez, who serves as the vice chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, later offered to call Attorney General John O’Connor while officers attempted to determine whether the Legislature was in special session.
“I don’t want to create a constitutional crisis,” Martinez said. “Do you want me to call the attorney general? It would make it easier.”
Minutes later, the third Edmond officer asked Martinez when the Legislature’s special session began. Martinez replied, “I don’t think it ever ended,” which prompted the officer to say, “I don’t think that’s how special sessions work.”
“Well, if you want me to explain the Constitution to you,” Martinez said, before roughly outlining how disagreements over budget negotiations had led Stitt to call a concurrent special session in May.
Also in May, lawmakers called their own concurrent special session to appropriate American Rescue Plan Act funding, and both chambers adjourned that special session Oct. 14. (The House had previously adjourned from Stitt’s special session, but the Senate never formally adjourned that session.)
“That is still ongoing because we still have some money left to spend,” Martinez said about the ARPA special session. “There are probably like three special sessions going on right now.”
While not all ARPA dollars have been appropriated, Martinez’s statement about special session being “ongoing” was false.
“Do we want to make a media circus out of this deal?” Martinez asked at one point. “That’s what it’s going to turn into. That’s fine.”
The third officer eventually told his colleagues and Martinez that the Department of Public Safety could not confirm a special session was ongoing.
“Even if there was a special session, the guy over at DPS says, ‘I’ve never heard of anyone not being able to be arrested during a special session,'” the officer stated.
Martinez said he would not argue the point.
“You’ve been very fair. I appreciate it. I have no complaints. I love Edmond, America,” Martinez said. “I’ve had a rough couple weeks, man.”
Martinez requested to call his attorney several times during the interaction with police. Officers told him they would prefer that he not call his attorney and eventually said he could make phone calls from the jail.
Martinez did not respond to a request for comment prior to the publication of this story. Neither did the office of House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka).
‘I think I can make it home for two blocks’
Police found Martinez inside his running SUV outside The Patriarch, an Edmond bar shortly before midnight, according to the police report. Martinez initially told officers he had “a couple beers in the Patriarch.” Martinez later told police he had two single vodka-tonics at the bar, and then subsequently said he consumed “three or four” drinks.
An EPD dispatcher had received a call about an intoxicated person — later identified as Martinez — who had shown up to the bar and had been refused service for already being intoxicated.
Officers asked where Martinez had been prior to The Patriarch, to which he initially said “just at The Patriarch.” After further questioning, he told the officers he had dinner at Mahogany Prime Steakhouse in Oklahoma City, but that he thought he did not have anything to drink while there.
Martinez submitted to multiple field sobriety tests, stumbling and wobbling while trying to walk a straight line. He was also unable to stand on one leg adequately, and officers said he failed the nystagmus test regarding involuntary eye movements.
“I think I can make it home for two blocks,” Martinez told officers. “I think I can drive home safely and legally.”
The police report noted that Martinez’s residence is 2.7 miles away from The Patriarch.
Martinez was arrested and booked into the Edmond City Jail, and he was bonded out at 4:40 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 27.
It was not his first arrest for an alcohol-related allegation, which means he could face a felony charge in Oklahoma County for DUI or actual physical control, which refers to someone being in control of a vehicle while intoxicated.
In 2014, Martinez was charged with a misdemeanor in Oklahoma County District Court for driving under the influence. He was put on probation for the offense, and it was later expunged from court records. The charge was raised as an issue in mailers sent to voters by Martinez’s 2018 Republican primary opponent.
In addition to co-chairing the House’s appropriations committee, Martinez also found himself in the spotlight this spring while chairing the investigative panel into the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s defunct agreement with Swadley’s BBQ.
Martinez has represented House District 39 since 2016. He was reelected by default during this year’s election cycle when no one else filed for HD 39.
Martinez called Stitt ‘racist’ during legislative session
While he offered to call Stitt during the arrest, Martinez was one of Stitt’s biggest critics during the last legislative session.
Martinez called Stitt’s behavior “hateful” and “racist” after the governor vetoed House Bill 3501, which allows the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to revoke driver’s licenses based on traffic offense convictions in tribal courts. The House and Senate overrode Stitt’s veto, allowing the bill to become law.
“With the governor vetoing this important bill, would it be safe to make the assumption that his racist and hateful behavior towards the tribes of this state is getting in the way of good public policy to protect Oklahomans?” Martinez said on the House floor during the override of Stitt’s veto.