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Le'Veon Bell's DUI Statements May Actually Help Him

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At the time of his arrest for DUI and possession of marijuana, Le’Veon Bell actually said the following: “I didn’t know you could get a DUI for being high. I smoked two hours ago. I’m not high anymore. I’m perfectly fine. Why would I be getting high if I had to make it to my game?”

Hopkins Rule #1: Never make a statement. Ever.

The problem is my clients usually don’t become my clients until after they made the statement so they didn’t know not to make a statement. Bell is no different.

Street/Prison Rule #1: No snitching.

Bell managed to break both rules simultaneously.

He made a statement and snitched on himself at the same time. It’s like shooting yourself with your own gun. I guess he wanted to be Cheddar Bob or Plaxico Burress. Not a good look.

But let’s examine Bell’s statement to see just how bad it was and if it will help or hurt his chances of getting the case dismissed and/or suspended by the NFL.

First a little background on DUI law.

There are two types of DUIs: 1) driving while impaired (think: swerving) and, 2) driving with a certain level of alcohol or illegal drug in your blood.

The latter is a strict liability form of DUI that doesn’t require the prosecutor to prove impairment, only that the substance was in your blood at or above the cut-off level.

Bell was charged with DUI relating to smoking marijuana, or having the THC metabolite in his system, not for being drunk. His statement—“I didn’t know you could get a DUI for being high”—is non-specific to him and irrelevant for the most part.

Eric Thomas’ tweet fittingly sums up that portion of Bell’s statement:

Screen Shot_2014-08-23_at_6.28.14_AM

The second statement—“I smoked two hours ago”—presents problems for his case. Obviously, he admitted to smoking marijuana. No one would believe he was talking about cigarettes or Black & Milds. That argument would border on insanity.

The important thing about Bell’s second statement is what’s not in it: just how much he smoked. That dovetails into his third statement: “I’m not high anymore.”

That statement has been dissected by other state courts (other than Pennsylvania) and has formed the basis for case-dismissing arguments for defendants such as Bell.

Pennsylvania employs a strict liability approach to driving with illegal substances in your system, which means if Bell has just 1 ng/ml of the THC metabolite (Delta-9-carboxy) in his blood, he’s guilty of a DUI.

What Bell didn’t know when he snitched on himself was that many courts around the country are finding that the strict liability THC laws are invalid.

The reason the THC laws are invalid, according to these courts, is because “the ‘metabolite’ reference in the law is limited to any of a proscribed substance’s metabolites that are capable of causing impairment ... Drivers cannot be convicted of the...offense based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect the prior usage of marijuana.” Read the entire ruling here. (Opens in new window)

Bell Jump

Back to Bell and him saying, “I’m not high anymore.”

If he’s correct, and there are no active, impairment causing THC metabolites in his system, then his lawyer will be armed with a strong argument to get his case tossed.

And of course Bell’s lawyer will argue Bell’s statement, “I’m perfectly fine,” shows that his client wasn’t impaired. But again, this is about the THC metabolite and the prior usage of marijuana, not impairment.

And had he adhered to Hopkins’ Rule #1—Never Make A Statement—and had he tested below the NFL’s 15 ng/ml cut-off level, then the NFL wouldn’t have any basis to suspend him on the DUI.

Now the possession of pot charge? Well, that’s another story. I have a theory, though.

Bell was driving and Blount was sitting in the passenger seat. The cop hit the lights and Blount hid the weed under his seat. That, or they gave the weed to the female passenger in the backseat and she put it under Blount’s seat. If she were willing to take one for the team (literally), then she would’ve put it in her purse (assuming she had one). If the weed were in her purse, only she would’ve been charged with possession.

But with the weed under the passenger seat, the passenger gets charged with possession. And because Bell is driving the car, he’s in what’s called “constructive possession” of everything in the car, including the weed under the seat. Busted.

The strongest case he has for beating the possession charge is if the female passenger cops to the weed and says Bell and Blount didn’t know about it. It’ll be interesting to see the statements that are made by these three in the coming months.  

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Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins Bio

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).

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Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).