Former Las Vegas Raider will plead guilty to fatal DUI. Did his lawyers get him a good deal and could he make an NFL comeback like Mike Vick?
What happened in former Las Vegas Raider Henry Ruggs’s fatal drunk driving case?
Former Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III has decided to plead guilty to felony drunk driving charges following an incident that killed 23-year-old Tina Tintor and her pet dog, Max on November 2, 2021. His vehicle was allegedly traveling at approximately 156MPH when it collided with the victim’s car which burst into flames. Ruggs’ girlfriend was also substantially injured in the crash.
What are the terms of the plea agreement?
Ruggs has yet to formally enter the guilty plea but he waived his preliminary hearing last week, a move that was necessary in order to satisfy the terms of the agreement between him and the State. He faces 3 to 10 year state prison sentence if the plea is accepted.
In Nevada, drunk driving resulting in death is a Class B felony and there is a mandatory minimum 2 year state prison sentence and up to a maximum of 20 years on this charge alone. Ruggs’ plea deal allegedly requires him to serve a mandatory 3 years before being eligible for parole. He has remained free on bail following his initial arrest and so he will not receive any credit for time served (18 months).
Why did Henry Ruggs plead guilty?
Prior to the preliminary hearing, his criminal defense attorneys had filed motions to exclude (suppress) the blood evidence against Ruggs which indicated that his BAC was .16, double the legal limit. The decision to plead guilty likely came when the court ruled that the blood evidence against Ruggs was admissible at trial.
What charges will he plead guilty to in Nevada State Court?
Ruggs’ sentencing is set for May 10 in Clark County, Las Vegas. According to the proposed plea agreement, he will plead guilty to one count of DUI resulting in death and one count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. All other charges will be dismissed, including felony reckless driving, driving under the influence causing substantial injury (Ruggs’ girlfriend) and a misdemeanor gun charge. If Ruggs had proceeded to trial and been convicted, he faced more than 50 years in state prison.
Did Ruggs’ attorneys get him a solid plea deal?
I believe the Mr. Ruggs’ criminal defense lawyers did a very good job in this case given the aggravating circumstances surrounding this incident—high BAC and extreme speed of the car prior to the crash. Given Ruggs’ exposure to a long state prison sentence, the plea deal which requires him to serve a mandatory 3 years is a solid result.
Could Henry Ruggs make a professional football comeback?
The only issue I have with the case is the decision to contest bail and obtain his release. Had Ruggs remained in county jail this entire time, he would have been eligible for parole in less than 18 month! He is only 24 years old and could have theoretically attempted to make a professional comeback in the NFL or some other professional league (CFL, XFL, USFL) at still the young age of 25!
There are over 25 NFL receivers over the age of 30 in NFL. Even if Ruggs played 5 years following his release it would still be longer than the average NFL career (3.3 years). Many players are playing well into their 30s given new training methods, nutrition and other longevity practices.
I obviously don’t know what Ruggs’ intentions are following his sentence but given his talent, it is likely that he will attempt some type of comeback to at the very least support himself and his family. Ruggs has no time credit toward his sentence and will have to serve 3 years before he is eligible for release. While a professional comeback may not have been likely, even if he was released in 18 months, it is even less likely in 3 years.
Death by Auto while DUI/DWI in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania, like Nevada, maintains a criminal statute to address homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence under Title 75 § 3735. This is a felony of the 2nd degree in Pennsylvania and if convicted, a person faces a mandatory minimum 3 years of state prison.
The elements required to convict a person in the Commonwealth are very similar to the elements in Nevada:
- The person was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- A death of another person occurred.
- The death occurred as a result of driving under the influence.
Why Blood Evidence is important in a drunk driving case?
The prosecution of a driving under the influence (DUI) requires that the government produce, in most cases, scientific evidence to meet its burden of proof. This scientific evidence generally consists of a defendant’s breath analysis for the presence and concentration of alcohol, a urine analysis and/or a blood test for alcohol and other intoxicates.
The level of intoxication is a critical issue in a DUI trial and scientific testing is the only way to present this evidence.
Blood analysis is considered one of the most reliable methods to test blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and headspace gas chromatography (HGC) is considered the most reliable method to make a BAC determination. HGC involves the separation of a sample into its structural components. A critical component of HGC analysis is whether the specimen tested is a whole blood measurement. In Pennsylvania, the law is very specific and anything less than whole blood requires the imposition of a conversion factor.
While the device used to determine BAC is chromatograph the report generated is known as the chromatogram. It is a computer generated graphical interpretation of raw data. GCH provides a scientist with the ability to determine all components of a specimen which would include, in the cases, of a DUI, ethanol. The chromatogram is measuring retention time which it defines as the period of time it takes for the device to identify a component in a specimen. In a case of ethanol, the machine is provided with a standard concentration for ethanol with a solution the known as a calibrator. If the substance identified matches the calibrated solution a conclusion is made that it is ethanol.
When a substance is detected it is demonstrated by a spike on a constant line. Each spike indicates a specific substance within a specimen. It is important that there be sufficient distance between spikes. Without this separation, it will be impossible for a scientist to determine a substance such as ethanol versus a non-intoxicating substance in a whole blood specimen. It is also important that the peeks are tall, skinny, and symmetrical. If the spikes do not meet these characteristics they are considered “co-eluted” which means they were detected at the same time and therefore it is impossible to determine which substance was actually detected.
In addition to issues with the actual device and/or interpretation of the results, it is important to keep in mind that the actual testing techniques could call into question the validity of BAC testing. Specimen handling and chain of custody are all issues which your defense attorney should consider prior to trial. The successful defense of a DUI requires that your attorney have a strong working knowledge of scientific testing utilized by the prosecution. Without such knowledge he/she will have no real way of defending your interest thus subjecting you to severe criminal penalties, such as imprisonment, license suspension and substantial fines.
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