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State public safety chief slams judge for dismissing DUI charge against Tupelo city attorney

The state chief of public safety strongly criticized Lee County Justice Court Judge Chuck Hopkins for his reasoning in dismissing a drunk driving charge against Tupelo city attorney Ben Logan.

Posted: Jul 23, 2019 9:22 AM
Updated: Jul 23, 2019 6:56 PM

Editor's Note: A statement from Lee County Justice Court Judge Chuck Hopkins has been added to this article.

JACKSON, Miss. (WTVA) -- The state chief of public safety strongly criticized Lee County Justice Court Judge Chuck Hopkins for his reasoning in dismissing a drunk driving charge against Tupelo city attorney Ben Logan.

"This case is nothing more than local politics getting the end result they wanted by blaming a state agency," wrote Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher in a statement released Monday.

On July 11, Hopkins ruled the MHP roadblock in Tupelo where Logan was pulled over was unconstitutional because troopers did not have approval from a supervisor.

RELATED: Judge dismisses DUI refusal case against Tupelo city attorney

The commissioner responded there was nothing unconstitutional about the roadblock and troopers did have supervisor approval from a highway patrol master sergeant even though there is no Mississippi Supreme Court ruling requiring such approval.

"Judges are to use the law and facts when deciding whether police actions are constitutional, and Justice Court Judge Chuck Hopkins had neither the law nor the facts on his side when he dismissed the case," said Fisher.

In his statement, the commissioner cited four instances where the Mississippi Highway Patrol followed the law the night in December 2018 when Logan was arrested:

"The Mississippi Highway Patrol followed the law when they noticed a vehicle attempt to avoid a safety checkpoint by unexplainably pulling into a private drive of a closed business after 10:00 p.m. That vehicle was driven by Ben Logan."

"The Mississippi Highway Patrol followed the law when a corporal, staff sergeant and master sergeant were present conducting the safety checkpoint."

"The Mississippi Highway Patrol followed the law when its officers observed a driver with red, glassy eyes and slurred speech blow into a portable breath test – after refusing the first time and responding with 'Just lock me up.' That driver was Ben Logan."

"The Mississippi Highway Patrol followed the law while the non-attorney Justice Court judge ignored it and then created his own requirements for a safety checkpoint."

Hopkins told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal he dismissed the charge against Logan because no law enforcement supervisor authorized the checkpoint.

But Fisher said a supervisor did give authorization -- a highway patrol master sergeant.

In the final clause of the statement, Fisher said, "The Mississippi Highway Patrol remains committed to making the highways safe for all residents of Mississippi, including, but certainly not limited to, city attorneys and justice court judges."

"We're going to handle our business in court, and do that by following the law," Hopkins said in a statement to WTVA. 

Below is the entire statement issued Monday by Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher:

Judges are to use the law and facts when deciding whether police actions are
constitutional, and Justice Court Judge Chuck Hopkins had neither the law nor the facts
on his side when he dismissed the case against Tupelo City Attorney Ben Logan.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol followed the law when they noticed a vehicle attempt to
avoid a safety checkpoint by unexplainably pulling into a private drive of a closed business
after 10:00 p.m. That vehicle was driven by Ben Logan.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol followed the law when a Corporal, Staff Sergeant, and
Master Sergeant were present conducting the safety checkpoint.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol followed the law when its officers observed a driver with
red, glassy eyes and slurred speech blow into a portable breath test – after refusing the
first time and responding with “Just lock me up.” That driver was Ben Logan.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol followed the law while the non-attorney Justice Court
judge ignored it and then created his own requirements for a safety checkpoint.

Judge Hopkins was quoted as saying, “There has to be something from higher above
saying it’s OK.” This is incorrect. No Mississippi Supreme Court case requires law
enforcement have permission from their superior before conducting a safety checkpoint.
But even if that permission was required, the troopers in this case had it. The Master
Sergeant was present and even witnessed Ben Logan avoid the safety checkpoint. Judge
Hopkins would know this had he followed the law and conducted a hearing where
evidence could be presented by the parties. Instead, Judge Hopkins relied on briefs
submitted by the attorneys instead of relying on sworn testimony from any of the available
witnesses.

This case is nothing more than local politics getting the end result they wanted by blaming
a state agency. When non-lawyer judges start making decisions on what is considered
constitutional under the law, these types of mistakes will continue to happen. And when
judges make public statements in an attempt to justify their rulings, the Mississippi
Highway Patrol will continue to defend itself.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol remains committed to making the highways safe for all
residents of Mississippi, including, but certainly not limited to, city attorneys and
justice court judges.

Marshall Fisher
Commissioner

MORE: Open this link to see the statement.

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