Jim Irsay – A self pro-claimed ‘targeted white billionaire’ …who doesn’t understand his drugged driving case and that his status probably helped him avoid felony drug charges.
Recently Jim Irsay, the owner of Indianapolis Colts NFL team, stated in an interview that he was in some way targeted because of his celebrity status. Irsay inherited the Colts, following his father’s death. Irsay’s father, Robert Irsay, died in 1997 and prior to his death had a substantial fortune. The Colts are currently worth over four billion dollars!
The Jim Irsay Case
Irsay was arrested for drugged/drunk driving in 2014 and later pled guilty to the charge. Toxicology reports indicated that Irsay, at the time of his arrest, had prescription drugs in his system. According to the police report, officers found various prescription drugs in his car along with more than $29,000 in cash. A chemical report found that Irsay had the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone as well as alprazolam, at the time of his arrest. These drugs were legally proscribed. Irsay was not charged with illegal possession of drugs or narcotics.
Did Irsay’s status as a celebrity billionaire help him.
Given that his allege prescription narcotics and the amount of cash ($29,000) found together in Irsay’s car, his extreme wealth and celebrity status probably saved him from additional criminal charges such as possession with the intent to distribute narcotics (PWID). A felony PWID charge isn’t necessarily based on the amount of drugs found at the time of the arrest but the circumstances surrounding the arrest. Here, Irsay was found with a large quantity of cash and drugs. If Irsay wasn’t a billionaire and a celebrity, there would be a strong argument that he was selling, intending to sell or had just sold drugs at the time of his arrest.
Irsay’s drugged driving case – Illegal or Legal Drugs – It doesn’t matter
Following the plea, however, Irsay now claims that he agreed to plead only “to get it over with.” This case presents an opportunity to explain not only drugged driving but also important points that Mr. Irsay, despite his wealth and business experience, fails to recognize.
First, Irsay stated that he pled guilty to “get it over with.” While I do believe that Irsay would have been convicted at trial, given the allegations, he should not have entered a guilty plea unless he understood what made him guilty. His lawyers simply failed to do their job and if Irsay truly believed that he was innocent, I question his lawyers’ professional ethics letting him answer questions, under oath, knowing that he was not answering them truthfully.
A criminal defense lawyer in this situation must advise his or her client and explain the elements of the offense. Had Irsay’s lawyer’s done it, Irsay would have understood that a person is guilty of drugged driving based on impairment, not the substance. Irsay, according to the report, was taking prescription drugs at the time of his arrest. If this is true and those drugs caused his impairment, Irsay was guilty of drugged driving (i.e. DUI/DWI).
Drugged Driving – Pennsylvania & New Jersey
In New Jersey and Pennsylvania you can commit a DUI or DWI even if you’re taking a legally proscribed drug or a drug that you purchased over the counter. Under 3802(d)(2) (Pennsylvania) or 39:4-50 (New Jersey), the district attorney (prosecution) only has to establish the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
Person was under the influence of any drug or combination of drugs
To a degree that impair that person’s ability to safely drive, operate or be in control of the movement of motor vehicle
Section 3802(d)(2) (Pennsylvania) and Section 39: 4-50 (New Jersey) is written very broadly and this was done on purpose to DUI related injuries and deaths. Section 3802(d)(3) is very similar. Under 3802(d)(3), the district attorney (prosecution) only has to establish the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Person was under the combined influence of alcohol and a drug or combination of drugs
- To a degree that impair that person’s ability to safely drive, operate or be in control of the movement of motor vehicle
States like Pennsylvania and New Jersey have created broad DUI/DWI statutes because the safety of drivers and their families is obviously a major concern. Notice that neither section of the DUI statute doesn’t require the prosecution to introduce any blood evidence or results of chemical test (breathalyzer) Read my article on breathalyzers.
Section 3802(d)(1) requires that the prosecution present evidence that a drug was in a person’s body at the time of their arrest. Under this section, however, the prosecution must present a minimum drug level for it to be admissible (used against you) in court. This drug level pertains to the actual drug or a metabolite of the drug. A metabolite is the result when a drug is metabolized by the body into a modified form which continues to produce effects in the body.
Drug Testing & Drugged DUI Defense – Don’t Count on It!
Drug testing is a two-step process. The first step identifies the actual substance or its metabolite in the blood. The second step is much more complicated and it measures the concentration of the substance and its quantity. Even if the prosecution can’t establish a minimum amount of a drug or its metabolite it can still prosecute and convict a person.
Remember that these other sections don’t require the prosecution to introduce any specific drug level but only testimony that the person was unable to operate the vehicle safely on a city street or road within Philadelphia or within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The prosecution witness, usually a police officer, will testify that based on their experience the person was under the influence of a drug or a combination of drug and therefore unable to operate a (car) vehicle safely in Pennsylvania. This will meet the burden of proof!
If you have more questions regarding drugged DUI/DWI in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact our criminal defense law firm today.
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