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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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