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: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17436187
Hinds16524328
Harrison13876199
Rankin11000217
Jackson10652187
Lee8981141
Madison8413168
Jones6552112
Forrest6101121
Lauderdale6034189
Lowndes5463119
Lafayette507393
Lamar496465
Washington4877124
Bolivar4068109
Oktibbeha401681
Panola378380
Pontotoc372155
Monroe3628105
Warren3619101
Union350563
Marshall349569
Neshoba3433152
Pearl River3380104
Leflore3079108
Lincoln300687
Sunflower289272
Hancock285360
Tate276762
Alcorn268854
Pike266580
Itawamba266261
Scott253448
Yazoo250156
Prentiss249552
Tippah245850
Copiah244549
Coahoma243654
Simpson240069
Leake234367
Grenada221171
Marion218473
Covington216972
Adams210170
Wayne206432
Winston205267
George202739
Attala195761
Newton195745
Tishomingo192461
Chickasaw186144
Jasper176038
Holmes169868
Clay162735
Tallahatchie154935
Stone148424
Clarke143562
Calhoun138021
Smith125825
Yalobusha120234
Walthall113437
Greene112129
Noxubee111425
Montgomery110936
Carroll105922
Lawrence104317
Perry103231
Amite99926
Webster94324
Tunica87621
Jefferson Davis87327
Claiborne86825
Benton84023
Humphreys83624
Kemper79120
Quitman7029
Franklin68716
Choctaw62313
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55920
Sharkey44217
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 432536

Reported Deaths: 6379
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63523957
Mobile30967562
Madison27627201
Tuscaloosa21122268
Montgomery19495326
Shelby18941126
Baldwin16798188
Lee12901102
Morgan12447129
Etowah11911178
Calhoun11365205
Marshall10322119
Houston8813156
Limestone823176
Cullman8159106
Elmore8056104
DeKalb7796102
Lauderdale773399
St. Clair7705122
Talladega6347109
Walker5993174
Jackson590341
Colbert543274
Blount541186
Autauga527061
Coffee454160
Dale405482
Franklin371948
Russell345712
Chilton340972
Covington334168
Escambia328344
Dallas310196
Chambers297370
Clarke290536
Tallapoosa2665107
Pike258830
Marion250155
Lawrence249150
Winston231442
Bibb219848
Geneva206946
Marengo205229
Pickens198631
Hale180842
Barbour177836
Fayette174528
Butler171358
Cherokee162530
Henry157523
Monroe150718
Randolph143236
Washington139527
Clay128546
Crenshaw121644
Cleburne119724
Lamar119621
Macon119637
Lowndes112536
Wilcox105822
Bullock101428
Perry99118
Conecuh96320
Sumter89726
Greene76723
Coosa62215
Choctaw51624
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