Buckner pleads not guilty in DUI case, asks for jury trial

Rep. Buckner, as he appeared in the police mugshot following his arrest. (Springfield Police photo)

Staff writer

State Rep. Kambium Buckner (D-26th) has pleaded not guilty to DUI charges stemming from his March arrest in Springfield and has requested a jury trial, according to court documents.

He was arrested early in the morning of March 29, asleep at the wheel of his Land Rover at an intersection a few blocks from the Illinois Capitol. In Springfield Police Department body camera footage of the arrest released by the Illinois News Network, Buckner appears slightly disoriented and tells the officer that he is a state representative.

“I’m trying to go to sleep, so I can leave in the morning,” Buckner said, explaining that he was en route to his Springfield hotel. He told the officer that he had one drink that night and that an empty cup full of ice and lime did not belong to him.

Buckner refused to take a breath test. “I don’t know what that’s going to say,” he said. “I’m really just trying to go back to the hotel and go to sleep and go back to session in the morning and be done and go back to Chicago.” He explained that he is an attorney and “put myself in a position I shouldn’t be in.”

The officer said that he believed Buckner was over the legal limit, adding that a man Buckner’s size — he is a former University of Illinois football player — who only had a drink or two would not be above the legal limit. “I think you may have had more than one or two, and I think you’re going to be above it,” the officer said; without the breath test, the officer said he would operate under his training, and, given that Buckner failed several sobriety tests, Buckner would go to jail.

He refused to take the test, was handcuffed and led to a patrol car. Later that morning, Buckner paid bond and was released. His driver’s license has been suspended for 12 months. According to the Springfield Police documents, Buckner has one other DUI arrest.

Buckner and his attorney, Monroe McWard of downstate Taylorville, filed a motion for discovery on April 10, seeing “any written confession, admission or statement” of Buckner’s alongside any witnesses, the names whom the state intends to call as witnesses, any evidence that would negate Buckner’s guilt and any information concerning chemical tests to which Buckner submitted.

Buckner declined to comment to the Herald after a court appearance on April 30, deferring to McWard, who did not respond to requests for comment.

Buckner, who lives in Bronzeville, was appointed to the Illinois House of Representatives in January, succeeding Christian Mitchell, who resigned from the General Assembly to become deputy governor. He represents Kenwood west of Woodlawn Avenue and Hyde Park west of Ellis Avenue.