Cops Sideline NFL Players for DUI
Professional football players across the country grabbed headlines earlier this summer with some spectacularly dumb moves behind the wheel: Three NFL players were busted for drinking and driving, putting their careers and even their freedom at stake.
While it may seem that NFL athletes with so much at stake – million-dollar contracts, long-shot fame and teams that depend on them – should know better, the truth is no one is immune from DUI trouble, and your life could change in the blink of an eye if you drink and drive.
First, Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was charged with DUI on May 31 after being pulled for swerving and speeding on the San Francisco Bay Bridge in April on the way home from a bar in the city. He blew a .12 on the breathalyzer. Like most states, California’s legal limit is .08. Hewyard-Bey plead not guilty and is expected back in court June 28; he faces up to six months in jail.
Next, New York Giants tackle David Diehl crashed his car into parked cars in Queens after spending a Sunday in a bar watching his native Croatia play soccer on TV. He was arrested June 10 for DUI after reportedly blowing a .18 on the breathalyzer, well over New York’s .08 limit.
And finally, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon pulled a rookie move, getting arrested June 3 for aggravated DUI after being pulled over for speeding (60 in a 35 mph zone) and swerving. Blackmon blew a whopping .24, three times Oklahoma’s .08 legal limit. This would make the player’s second DUI arrest; he was nailed in Texas in 2010 for misdemeanor DUI.
Even One Can Be Too Many
“It is the one crime that can literally happen to anyone when they have had one too many drinks and then drive,” observes Joseph Esparza, a criminal defense lawyer with the Law Office of Michael C. Gross, P.C. in San Antonio, TX.
The .08 benchmark generally translates to three to four drinks, Esparza notes. “However, how alcohol affects you is based on a number of factors, so the rule is not hard and fast for everyone. Gender, weight, when you last ate food, type of alcoholic drink consumed, etc., can all have a bearing on how much alcohol affects you and on your limit.”
But even if you drink the smallest amount of alcohol, you can still get in trouble behind the wheel. “Many jurisdictions have the ability to prosecute you based on the loss of mental and physical faculties, so even if you are under a .08, it does not necessarily mean you are free and clear,” Esparza warns.
What to Do If You Get Pulled Over
Aside from not drinking and driving in the first place, the best way to avoid the worst case scenario if you get pulled over is to “remember that the police are trying to build a case against you and are not talking to you to be friendly, no matter how nice they may be to you,” Esparza says.
Here are his tips:
- “Be polite and cooperative (to a point),” Esparza recommends. Remember you will likely be recorded by dashboard camera.
- Refuse any offered field sobriety tests (FSTs).
- Also refuse any offered breath tests, but know that “if you do, many jurisdictions impose penalties [such as] driver’s license suspensions,” he says.
- Remain calm and reasonable. “An inappropriate reaction such as anger, laughter, etc., can work against you at trial, especially if coupled with FSTs and poor performance,” says Esparza.
- Consult a local criminal attorney as soon as possible.
“Some jurisdictions may also attempt to obtain a search warrant for a blood sample should you refuse a breath test,” Esparza notes. This is another reason to speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as you can, to find out your rights. In the mean time, he says, “your goal should be to deprive the prosecution of evidence against you and that means politely refusing any offered tests.”
What to Expect If You Get Busted
Get the free Criminal Law Newsletter. Subscribe Today
If you’re arrested and convicted of DUI, a range of penalties is possible: You could lose your drivers license, pay massive fines, go to jail, be required to do community service or go to rehab. Penalties vary by state. You can even lose your license before you’re convicted, if your state provides for administrative license suspension.
“In addition,” Esparza says, “there are also sometimes administrative sanctions that are imposed on persons convicted of DWI/DUI.” As an example, he points to the “surcharge” that the Texas Department of Public Safety hits a license holder with: $1,000 a year for three years following his or her conviction.
“The money adds up, in addition to fines, court costs, probation supervisory fees, etc.,” Esparza says. “Always ask your attorney if the punishment range also includes any administrative sanctions to get a realistic cost of what a conviction could bring.”
If huge fines and possible jail time aren’t enough to deter you from drinking and driving, not only will you never forget a conviction; neither will the state. “Typically an arrest and conviction for DUI stays on your record forever,” Esparza says.
The only way to avoid this permanent headache is if your jurisdiction allows “expunction,” a process in which your lawyer goes to court to “expunge” or remove the conviction from your record. But this is usually only an option if you were found not guilty or the prosecutor dismissed the case for some reason. “If you plead to the charge or took it to trial and were convicted by a jury, then you would not have the option of expunction in many states,” Esparza notes.
In the end, it’s probably best to let the recent spate of NFL players’ lapses in judgment be a lesson to everyone: Don’t drink and drive. The best advice is the cheapest, because you don’t have to hire a lawyer to hear it: “It is always best to have a designated driver so as to avoid the headache and cost a DWI charge can bring,” says Esparza.