Lee County prosecutor DUI case stuck in legal limbo

MOORE

Daily Journal

TUPELO – James Moore was charged with driving under the influence more than 14 months ago, and it could be another three years before it comes to trial.

Moore, the Lee County Prosecuting Attorney, was stopped by the Tupelo Police Department Dec. 2, 2014, in downtown Tupelo and charged with first offense driving under the influence.

Moore is not trying to contest the charge. He would love to pay the fine and move on. The delay is because the regular Tupelo Municipal Court judge and prosecutor asked to be recused.

“I was fine with the city court judges and prosecutor handling it,” Moore said. “But I can understand why they might be uncomfortable (hearing my DUI case), and they wanted to step aside as a professional courtesy.”

The case sat silent while the city court looked to get an outside prosecutor and judge to come in and handle the case. In order to move the case forward, Moore’s attorney Harry Sumner had Moore plead no contest to the charge in city court. The case was then appealed to Lee County Court and Judge Charlie Brett.

Unlike appeals to the Supreme Court where the high court reviews the lower court case, a county court appeal is a completely new trial.

“It’s a new trial with a new judge,” Moore said. “It got it out of city court, and I think we can get it resolved once we get a trial date.”

That’s where the new delay comes into play. County court not only hears appeals, criminal cases and civil cases, but the court also handles all of the youth court cases as well.

“We have appealed but the county court docket is very backed up,” Moore said. “It normally takes two to three years to get a trial date in county court. We’ll just have to wait.”

Moore, 45, of Saltillo, met friends at a downtown Tupelo restaurant on the evening of Dec. 2, 2014. He struck a parked car as he backed out of the parking lot, bringing a Tupelo Police officer to the scene.

Under Mississippi law, a first offense DUI carries penalties of a 90-day license suspension, fines of $250-$1,000 and up to 48 hours in jail. Last fall, the new DUI law went into effect, allowing for the use of car ignition interlocks and the chance for first-time offenders to have the conviction removed from their records.

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