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Danielle Nantkes
Danielle Nantkes

Lincoln police picked up a freshman senator on suspicion of drunken driving after she ran into a city snow plow early Wednesday.

Sen. Danielle Nantkes of Lincoln  was driving east on P Street in the south lane in her 1990 Dodge Spirit at 1 a.m. when she collided with a southbound Caterpillar front-end loader, according to Officer Katherine Finnell.

She said the snow plow had not quite cleared the intersection at 19th Street when Nantkes hit the right rear of it, causing $1,500 damage to her own car.

The snow plow driver, Timothy Brabb of Lincoln, called police.

Nantkes, 29, told the officer she tried to stop but couldn’t because of the snow, according to the accident report.

Finnell said the officer observed signs of impairment and said Nantkes smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, noticeably impaired balance and bloodshot, watery eyes.

Nantkes allegedly refused to take field sobriety tests or a preliminary breath test at the scene and was taken to the police station, where she refused a chemical test, according to Finnell.

Police cited her on suspicion of negligent driving, misdemeanor driving under the influence and refusal of a preliminary breath test and chemical test.

Then they took her to Cornhusker Place detox center, which is often what police do when DUI suspects live in Lincoln, don’t have a record of failures to appear and are accused of misdemeanors, Finnell said.

By state law, police couldn’t arrest her. According to Article III, Section 15 of the Nebraska State Constitution, state senators — except in cases of treason, felony allegations or a breach of the peace — are privileged from arrest during the session and 15 days before and after.

Voters in District 46 elected Nantkes, a lawyer with a nonprofit group that works on poverty issues, to the Legislature in November.

She issued a written statement apologizing for the accident Wednesday afternoon.

“I was involved in a property damage incident last night. Alcohol was a factor. No one was hurt,” Nantkes said. “I humbly apologize to my constituents, colleagues, friends and the public.”

She said she would get an alcohol evaluation and follow all recommendations.

“I intend to accept full responsibility for my actions,” Nantkes said.

Sen. Mike Flood, speaker of the Legislature, said it would be inappropriate for him to say what, if any, possible repercussions Nantkes could face in the Legislature, should she be convicted.

Nebraska doesn’t have an ethics committee, as some state legislatures do, to deal with allegations like this, he said.

Flood said he hadn’t talked yet with Nantkes and knew little about the accusations.

“We’ll let the law enforcement authorities and the court proceed as they would in any other situation similar to this,” he said.

Nantkes was set to go to court on the charges on March 26.

Finnell said Lincoln police have stopped Nantkes twice before on suspicion of drunken driving, both times in 1997.

After a stop on April 24, 1997, the then 19-year-old Nantkes was convicted of reckless driving and paid a $100 fine. After a stop on Aug. 22, 1997, she was convicted of DUI-first offense and ordered to serve one year on probation and pay a $200 fine.

Reach Lori Pilger at 473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

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