If the District decided it needed someone to govern behavior in cars, Marion Barry would certainly be the legislator to turn to.

He has unrivaled experience with cars, misbehaving, and the police, which makes the Ward 8 councilmember the perfect guy to introduce a bill that would make it a crime to smoke in a car with kids on board. His legislation would allow police officers to stop a vehicle and fine a driver $100 if he is observed smoking while children were in the car.

It’s hard to argue that smoking with the little ones in a small enclosed space isn’t conduct worthy of a serious ass-stomping. But before we rush to support Barry’s bill, a review of his history with the automobile is in order:

  • Barry’s most famous car incident dates to March 2002, when Park Police said they found a trace of marijuana and $5 worth of crack cocaine in his Jaguar after they approached then-private-citizen Barry at Buzzard Point. One officer observed a powdery substance on Barry’s face. Barry later asserted in an interview that the Park Police planted the pot on him.
  • In May 2006, Barry was involved in a minor traffic accident near the site of the new baseball stadium. He was taken to police headquarters and administered a breathalyzer test that gave a reading of .01.
  • On Sept. 10, 2006, Barry was stopped by uniformed Secret Service officers after running a red light. He blew a .02 on the breathalyzer (.08 is the legal intoxication level in the District) but refused a urine test, which opened the door for the authorities to charge him with DUI. He denies he was impaired at the time.
  • On Dec. 16 of that year, Barry was pulled over in Southeast by the Park Police for driving too slowly. He was cited for operating a vehicle without proper registration.

In all but one of incidents, Barry was alone when the police arrived. That might explain the statement on his bill he offered as a preemptive strike on complaints from civil libertarians. “This legislation is not meant to be prohibitive,” Barry said. “It’s very sensitive to people’s rights to smoke—-but not around other people.”

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