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: 308737

Reported Deaths: 7139
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20901250
Hinds19953410
Harrison17551302
Rankin13358276
Jackson13141243
Madison9949211
Lee9886170
Jones8308161
Forrest7537147
Lauderdale7221237
Lowndes6286144
Lamar613284
Lafayette6063117
Washington5288133
Bolivar4775129
Oktibbeha457097
Panola4456103
Pearl River4433141
Warren4294118
Marshall4283101
Pontotoc417572
Monroe4061132
Union404675
Neshoba4001176
Lincoln3883109
Hancock373385
Leflore3470124
Sunflower330789
Tate325082
Pike3205105
Scott311272
Yazoo304769
Alcorn298865
Itawamba297477
Copiah293965
Coahoma290378
Simpson289486
Tippah285168
Prentiss276559
Marion266279
Leake261473
Wayne261441
Grenada256284
Covington254980
Adams246882
Newton245561
George238347
Winston226081
Tishomingo222467
Jasper219948
Attala213573
Chickasaw205257
Holmes186972
Clay183054
Stone179531
Clarke177576
Tallahatchie175940
Calhoun165231
Yalobusha159736
Smith159234
Walthall131043
Greene129633
Lawrence126623
Noxubee126533
Montgomery125742
Perry125238
Carroll120926
Amite120741
Webster113732
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica103025
Claiborne101330
Benton97425
Kemper95628
Humphreys94432
Franklin82723
Quitman78916
Choctaw73717
Wilkinson64928
Jefferson64828
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 521201

Reported Deaths: 10736
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753981490
Mobile39011799
Madison34002496
Tuscaloosa25329444
Montgomery23996567
Shelby23160239
Baldwin20674302
Lee15567165
Calhoun14330311
Morgan14152271
Etowah13677346
Marshall11988220
Houston10402278
Elmore10008200
Limestone9843147
Cullman9501189
St. Clair9449234
Lauderdale9254228
DeKalb8756181
Talladega8104171
Walker7126275
Jackson6751110
Autauga6748103
Blount6511134
Colbert6225130
Coffee5418113
Dale4771111
Russell429338
Franklin420582
Chilton4100109
Covington4059114
Tallapoosa3904146
Escambia389574
Dallas3522149
Chambers3513122
Clarke346760
Marion3072100
Pike306176
Lawrence295395
Winston273072
Bibb256059
Marengo248261
Geneva245975
Pickens233059
Barbour226255
Hale218675
Butler212867
Fayette209460
Henry188044
Cherokee182544
Randolph177041
Monroe172440
Washington164738
Macon155548
Clay150055
Crenshaw149457
Cleburne146341
Lamar139634
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124527
Bullock121540
Conecuh109428
Perry107626
Sumter103232
Coosa99428
Greene91334
Choctaw58724
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