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Byfuglien impaired boating trial begins Monday

Jul 22, 2012, 10:44 AM EDT

Alexander Burmistrov, Dustin Byfuglien Getty Images

It’s been nearly a year since Dustin Byfuglien was arrested for boating while intoxicated, but his trial is set to begin on Monday in Minnesota.

James Turner of the Winnipeg Sun reports Byfuglien’s case will be made around how they believe the police mishandled parts of his arrest.

Byfuglien’s attorney, Mitchell Robinson, claims police denied the NHL star his right to consult with a lawyer prior to being arrested for refusing to submit to a drug test last August.

A short time later, Byfuglien consented to taking the test, but police refused to conduct it.

“It’s too late,” Robinson said Byfuglien’s arresting officer told him at the time.

 Byfuglien has plead not guilty to the charges.

Judge Ronald Abrams will be hearing the case in a Minneapolis courtroom and if Byfuglien is convicted, his charges carry a maximum punishment of a year in jail and a $3000 fine. He could also wind up having visa issues getting into Canada if convicted as well which would become a pretty big problem considering he plays for the Winnipeg Jets.

  1. manchestermiracle - Jul 22, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    Almost all law enforcement agencies go by a simple rule: If you are detained under suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated you cannot refuse to be tested without being immediately arrested. You have no right to consult an attorney upon refusing to be tested. Pretty straightforward. You can, however, exercise your right to consult with the attorney of your choice AFTER you have been arrested and charged with a crime. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided. Despite Byfuglien’s poor judgment (twice: drinking and boating and then refusing to be tested), he likely makes enough money to afford his own attorney.

    What, this buffoon thinks a suspected bank robber gets to call his lawyer before the cops put on the silver bracelets? And reversing course and agreeing to a test after your arrest is simply too late in the process. You’ve already refused to be tested and for that reason alone you get cuffed and hauled to the station. Let’s hope his attorney(s) has(have) more than what has been claimed in this story, or else they have no case at all. Boozing and boating….I hope he gets a fat fine commensurate with his income….

    • joshuakorr - Jul 23, 2012 at 1:49 AM

      Actually there is a right to counsel if you are in police custody and are being interrogated, whether or not you are under arrest. Miranda v. Arizona. You do not need to be formally arrested to be in custody. A defendant is in custody when a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would not feel free to terminate the encounter with police officers. The Supreme Court interprets that standard very loosely.

      Individuals who are subject to custodial interrogation have a right to counsel before being charged. That’s what Miranda ‘rights’ are all about. Otherwise the subset of police officers who want to circumvent citzens’ rights would do their dirty work before charging and get a free pass.

      • manchestermiracle - Jul 23, 2012 at 11:44 AM

        You are correct, of course. Perhaps I wasn’t clear about my point. Byfuglien’s attorney “claims police denied the NHL star his right to consult with a lawyer prior to being arrested.” There was nothing in the article showing Byfuglien was “in custody” prior to his arrest. Officers had a reasonable suspicion that Byfuglien was intoxicated and, having thus committed a crime, he was restrained and asked to submit to an alcohol test. He refused and was then arrested.

        There is a difference between being in custody (such as being placed in a patrol car or, say, not being allowed to leave a police station while being questioned and yet not being under arrest) and having been formally arrested. Most officers know that upon arresting a suspect it is proper protocol to inform the suspect as to the reason why they are being arrested. If the arresting officers transported Byfuglien to a police station and then refused to allow him his Constitutional right to an attorney that would certainly be misconduct. Claiming Byfuglien had a right to consult with an attorney prior to his arrest for suspicion of drunken boating is simply wrong. If that were true then no suspected perpetrator could be arrested until he could “consult” with an attorney. Every suspected criminal would have to be allowed to go free, no matter how obvious the crime, until they could talk to a lawyer. How many of those do you think would then show up at a police station or court?

        The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution spells out when a person has a right to counsel and that is only when a prosecution is commenced against him or he is indicted by a grand jury. Miranda rights address the responsibility of law enforcement to inform arrested suspects of their rights under the law. Miranda right to counsel concerns only police interrogation once the suspect is in custody. Byfuglien wasn’t invited to the police station and then interrogated. He was arrested for suspicion of committing a crime and then refused an alcohol test. His right to an attorney started upon his arrest. He has no right to consult an attorney BEFORE his arrest. This wasn’t a traffic ticket he was receiving.

        Investigatory stops or detentions must be limited and temporary, lasting no longer than necessary to carry out the purpose of the stop or detention. An investigatory stop that lasts too long turns into a de facto arrest that must comply with the warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment. But no bright line exists for determining when an investigatory stop becomes a de facto arrest, as courts are reluctant to hamstring the flexibility and discretion of police officers by placing artificial time limitations on the fluid and dynamic nature of their investigations. Rather, the test is whether the detention is temporary and whether the police acted with reasonable dispatch to quickly confirm or dispel the suspicions that initially induced the investigative detention.

  2. mclovinhockey - Jul 22, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    I’m on a boat and
    It’s going fast and
    I’m drinker than Dustin Byfuglien

  3. windmiller4 - Jul 22, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    So if he is convicted does that mean he’ll miss next season? also ive read that canada is very strict about dui’s and its usually close to impossible to get into the country after getting one. Does that mean the jets would have to trade him cause canada might not accept him?

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