Augare: Rights & Wrongs

In case you missed the story, Montana State Senator and Blackfeet tribal leader Shannon Augare was pulled over by a Glacier County deputy sheriff who suspected him of drinking and driving. The stop occurred on the Blackfeet Reservation. Augare reportedly told the deputy that the deputy had no jurisdiction. The deputy attempted to take Augare’s keys, but Augare reportedly fled the scene. The deputy contacted Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services about Augare, and it’s in their hands.

There are many rights and wrongs about this situation.

I’ve traveled in and around Glacier County enough that when I first read that Augare was pulled over by the deputy sheriff, “nine miles west of Cut Bank” on U.S. Highway 2, I wondered about jurisdictional issues since that location is clearly within the boundaries of the Blackfeet Reservation.

Right now we don’t really know if Augare was intoxicated. Unless he was stopped and administered a breath test by the Blackfeet Law Enforcement personnel later that night, we won’t ever know.

It’s wrong for anyone to drive intoxicated. It is right for law enforcement personnel to try and make our roads safer by getting drunk drivers off the road. All law enforcement agencies (city, county, state, and tribal) all agree on that issue, and I think they should work in concert to try and stop drunk driving.

Augare was right about the deputy not having jurisdiction. What is wrong about the jurisdiction issue is that it could cost lives. If he did actually flee the scene, that is wrong for anyone to do, especially for a state senator who makes laws.

As I mentioned in my Friday column, “Caught My Eye,” apparently the Glacier County Sheriff’s office issued a “news release” about the stop. Unless they do that with every traffic stop, that was wrong.

We have not heard anything from Augare (that I can find) about this situation and that is wrong. It’s interesting to see politicians become speechless. Several state legislators would knock down their grandmother to get to a microphone if they could promote themselves.

The Associated Press reported, “The Blackfeet reservation is one of *six American Indian reservations within Montana. Each is considered a sovereign nation ruled by its own tribal government, which sometimes complicates jurisdictional authority between tribes, state and federal governments.”

I agree with each tribe being a sovereign nation. I am sure that our Native American friends living on these reservations care just as much as the rest of us about our roads being safe from drunk drivers.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD), Montana ranked 45th in 2010 for DUI related traffic deaths (being ranked #1 is good, 45 is bad).

Combating drunk driving should not be a complicated jurisdictional issue.

*There are seven reservations in Montana.

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