HELENA — A state senator and Blackfeet tribal leader fled a traffic stop after telling a sheriff's deputy who smelled alcohol in his vehicle that he had no jurisdiction to arrest him, Glacier County authorities said Wednesday.
A sheriff's deputy responding to a complaint of an erratic driver Sunday night pulled over state Sen. Shannon Augare on U.S. Highway 2 about nine miles west of Cut Bank, Sgt. Judd Milender said in a statement.
The deputy identified Augare, 33, as a Blackfeet tribal councilman and the Democratic state senator from Browning.
"The deputy observed several clues indicating impairment and smelled an overwhelming odor of an alcoholic beverage," Milender said in the statement.
A confrontation ensued, with Augare telling the deputy he had no jurisdiction to make an arrest and that he was going to leave, Milender said.
The deputy tried to take Augare's keys, but Augare drove away as the deputy reached into the vehicle, he said.
The deputy did not pursue Augare — Milender said he wanted to avoid a high-speed pursuit that might have endangered the public — and instead contacted Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services, which made contact with Augare a short time later.
Any charges will be handled by the tribe, the sheriff's office said. The tribe's legal services office did not have an immediate comment on whether charges against Augare will be pursued.
Augare did not return a call from The Associated Press.
Augare was elected to the state House in 2006, re-elected in 2008 and then was elected to his current Senate seat in 2010.
He led a legislative Law and Justice Committee in 2010 that studied ways to crack down on drunken driving and give the justice system more tools to offer drug and alcohol treatment.
Augare said at the time that legislators were in agreement that more needed to be done to fight drunken driving but acknowledged there was little money available for expanding programs or incarceration.
The Browning senator also was at the center of an uproar during the recently ended legislative session when Democrats used his absence from a floor session to attempt to kill votes on Republican referendums.
Republicans alleged Augare's absence was orchestrated to invoke a rarely used parliamentary procedure to delay the floor votes and continued with the session over Democrats' shouts and pounding on desks.
Augare later said he went home to conduct tribal business.