Sen. Burton found innocent on 2nd offense DUI charge


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The second-ranking leader of the Mississippi Senate has been found innocent of a drunken driving charge.

Scott County Justice Court Judge Wilbur McCurdy cleared Sen. Terry C. Burton of second-offense DUI Thursday, The Clarion-Ledger reported (http://on.thec-l.com/1V2ucn6 ). Burton, 60, was charged after he wrecked his sport utility vehicle May 14 off Interstate 20 in Scott County. The vehicle hit a road sign.

"I had a coughing spell, after all the powder and dust blew from the air bags deploying," Burton, R-Newton, said Friday. "I took some cough syrup.... It was Nyquil, that was all I had in my bag, had nothing else in the vehicle to drink."

He said he used breath spray "because my mouth felt like cotton."

"The judge determined there was a false positive on the test," Burton said.

An arrest record released May 18 by the Mississippi Highway Patrol showed Burton registered .10 percent blood alcohol content in a breath test. The limit in Mississippi is .08 percent.

Burton said he had alcohol earlier that day at a VIP tent at a concert in Ridgeland, but had stopped drinking that afternoon and was not intoxicated when he crashed late that night.

Burton has been in the Senate since 1992 representing District 31 in Lauderdale, Newton and Scott counties. Colleagues elected him Senate president pro tempore in January, and he presides when Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is not available.

During the Scott County Justice Court hearing, a medical doctor testified on Burton's behalf, and a man who regularly serves as Burton's driver testified that he dropped the senator off at his car earlier that evening and Burton was not impaired.

Burton pleaded guilty to first-offense DUI in Brandon in July 2014. He said he took a non-narcotic prescription pain killer for back problems during the day, then forgot he had taken it and had a couple of drinks with dinner and got pulled over.

"I pleaded guilty the next day," Burton said of that case. "I went through the driving school class, suspension of license for 90 days and everything else. I knew I was guilty then. My daddy taught me to stand up and say you're guilty when you're guilty.... That's why I contested this one. I knew I was OK."

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