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NFL seeks to suspend first time DUI offenders

The National Football League and the Players Association are negotiating to change the league’s substance abuse policy.  If adopted, players charged with DUI and who are “deemed legally responsible” would be suspended from one game for a first drunk driving offense.  The current league policy for a first DUI offense is for a player to forfeit two game paychecks but not to lose playing time.

There is a common misconception that professional athletes ‘get away with murder’ if they are accused of a crime.  OJ Simpson notwithstanding, as a Denver DUI attorney and news junkie, it has been my experience that athletes not only don’t ‘get away’ with DUI, they rarely avail themselves of their constitutional rights.  Whether for public relations purposes or just trying to put things behind them, sports figures rarely take their DUI cases to trial.  The presumption of innocence doesn’t apply in the court of public opinion.

I cannot find an NFL definition of “deemed legally responsible” but if history is any indication, it is not simply being convicted and likely would not have the same due process protections that are afforded a DUI defendant in a criminal proceeding.  I would encourage an athlete to discuss their DUI case with a DUI attorney just as I would encourage someone with a less visible public life to do so.