AP NEWS

Top Mississippi state lawmaker charged with 2nd offense DUI

December 20, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A top Mississippi state senator has been charged with drunken driving after authorities said his truck went into a ditch.

State Senate President Pro Tem Terry Burton was found uninjured Wednesday night by a Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper near Starkville, authorities said.

Burton was taken to jail and charged with DUI second offense and failure to maintain proper lane. Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney said the 62-year-old was subsequently released on $992 bail.

Burton pleaded guilty after a 2014 DUI arrest in Brandon. He was acquitted after a 2016 DUI arrest in Scott County when a judge ruled that cough syrup and breath spray that Burton said he used right after the accident must have caused a false positive on a breathalyzer test.

The 62-year-old Republican declined to describe what happened Wednesday.

“I know firsthand what it is like to make a mistake and to accept the consequences for those mistakes,” Burton said in a statement delivered Thursday to The Associated Press. “I respect and applaud law enforcement for always erring on the side of caution. I truly believe this was a misunderstanding.”

Burton was elected president pro tem, the Senate’s second-in-command after Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, in 2016. Reeves’ office didn’t immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Another DUI case against the second-ranking member of Mississippi’s House of Representatives was resolved in November when that lawmaker agreed to enter a diversion program for first-time offenders. Republican Greg Snowden of Meridian had his driver’s license suspended for 120 days, but can drive with an interlock device that measures alcohol when starting a vehicle. Charges will later be dismissed if Snowden successfully completes the program.

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Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy .