TUPELO • The head of a state agency called the decision to throw out a DUI case against the Tupelo city attorney “nothing more than local politics.”
In a scathing response Monday, Mississippi Department of Public Safety commissioner Marshall Fisher also revealed new details that previously have not been publicly released.
“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,” Fisher said.
Logan was stopped at a Mississippi Highway Patrol safety checkpoint on Dec. 7 and arrested for driving under the influence. Logan was never booked into the Lee County Jail and was released to the Tupelo police and allowed to be driven home by his girlfriend.
The case was scheduled to be heard in Lee County Justice Court, but Logan’s attorneys filed a motion saying the checkpoint was unconstitutional. Hopkins agreed because no evidence in the court record indicated that troopers had permission from their supervisor to conduct the checkpoint and dismissed the case July 11.
According to Fisher, Logan attempted to avoid the checkpoint by pulling into a private drive of a closed business after 10 p.m. He noted that the checkpoint was properly authorized and three officers, including a master sergeant, noticed Logan showing visible signs of intoxication.
“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,’” Fisher said.
The commissioner was also critical of Hopkins, calling him a “non-attorney Justice Court judge” who “created his own requirements for a safety checkpoint.” In Mississippi, justice court is the only court where judges are not required to be attorneys.
“No Mississippi Supreme Court case requires law enforcement have permission from their superior before conducting a safety checkpoint,” Fisher said. “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.”
For months, the Department of Public Safety refused to comment when asked about and details on the Logan arrest, calling it an ongoing investigation. Following the dismissal and Hopkins’ explanation to the Daily Journal Saturday, Fisher decided to comment.
“This case is nothing more than local politics getting the end result they wanted by blaming a state agency,” Fisher said. “When non-lawyer judges start making decisions on what is considered constitutional under the law, these types of mistakes will continue to happen.”