Byfuglien seeks lesser charge in boating incident
A lawyer for Dustin Byfuglien says he hopes to get criminal charges against the Winnipeg Jets defenceman reduced in connection with an alleged impaired-boating incident last summer.
Byfuglien, 26, was arrested in August on a lake near Minneapolis and charged with boating while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and refusing a blood or urine sample.
Byfuglien pleaded not guilty to the charges in October. His lawyer, Mitch Robinson, is scheduled to meet with prosecutors and the judge at a pre-trial hearing Thursday in Minneapolis.
Robinson told CBC News his client will plead guilty to a lesser charge of careless boating, provided that the court agrees to it.
"I think a fair resolution of this case is a careless boating [charge] — that's driving in such a manner that it could have endangered other people, but it's not alcohol-related, it's not drug-related," Robinson said Wednesday.
Passed breathalyzer test
According to court documents, Byfuglien passed a breathalyzer test after a Hennepin County sheriff's officer stopped a boat he was driving on Lake Minnetonka on Aug. 31.
"He took a preliminary breath test and it came back well under the legal limit," Robinson said.
However, the arresting officer noted that Byfuglien had trouble speaking, was unsteady on his feet and smelled of alcohol.
Byfuglien refused to give a blood or urine sample, so he was examined by a police drug-recognition expert who concluded that he was under the influence of a controlled substance.
Robinson said he does not believe the prosecutor can prove the intoxicated-boating charge at trial.
"Technically, they could conceivably get a conviction for refusing to take the chemical test," Robinson said. "Or a jury may find that he had a rational explanation for not taking the test."
Byfuglien has also been accused of failing to display proper lights and failing to provide enough flotation devices for those on board the boat.
Refusing the blood or urine test is the most serious charge. It carries a maximum of one year in jail, a $3,000 US fine, or both. The other three charges each carry a maximum of 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.
The maximum penalty for careless boating is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, Robinson said.
With files from The Canadian Press