Report: Senator’s blood alcohol was almost twice legal limit
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A top Mississippi lawmaker registered a blood alcohol level of almost twice the legal limit after his Dec. 19 drunken driving arrest.
The Clarion Ledger reported Friday that state Senate President Pro Tem Terry Burton was measured with a .14 blood alcohol level, above the legal limit of .08. The newspaper obtained a Mississippi Highway Patrol incident report of the arrest near Starkville through a public records request.
A trooper found a Chevrolet pickup driven by Burton in a ditch. The trooper talked to the Newton Republican and reported he “could smell the odor of intoxicants.”
The report says Burton “admitted to drinking” and tested positive for alcohol on a preliminary test before being taken to the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department where he blew the .14, according to the report. He was charged with a DUI second offense and failure to maintain proper lane.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has called for Burton to give up his leadership post but can’t force him to step down, because the president pro tem is elected by all 52 state senators. Reeves and Burton are both Republicans and have been allies. As pro tem, the 62-year-old Burton helps advance legislation that the lieutenant governor wants and presides over the Senate when Reeves is unavailable.
If Burton does not step aside, legislative rules are not clear on a procedure senators might use to remove him once the legislative session begins in January.
Burton has apologized for causing “embarrassment” to friends, family and colleagues. He told the Clarion Ledger on Friday that he remains unsure if he was going to step down. He said he has been talking to “family, friends, clergy, therapist — everybody. But I have not made a decision.”
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 an accident must have caused a false positive on a breath test.
Burton took office in January 1992 as a Democrat representing a state Senate district in east central Mississippi. He became a Republican in December 2002.
Information from: The Clarion Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com