Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty on July 25 to misdemeanor charges stemming from his recent arrest in California, and the time it takes to resolve these legal issues may keep Lynch from facing a possible NFL suspension.
Lynch was originally scheduled to go to Court on Aug. 15, but his attorney, Ian Golde, had the hearing moved up to this week. According to Henry K. Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle, Lynch faces two misdemeanor charges: driving under the influence, and driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
"We will prove that Marshawn was not under the influence when he was pulled over on the evening in question," Golde told Lee. "There is much investigation that needs to be done in this case in that there are many questions about what occurred that are unanswered at this time. It is going to take some time to unravel everything and, when we do, I am very confident that Marshawn will be exonerated completely."
I remain skeptical that Golde's prediction of complete exoneration will come true, but by contesting the charges--or at least taking "some time to unravel everything"--Lynch can easily extend this out until after the NFL season has concluded. Since the NFL is unlikely to administer any sanctions of its own until Lynch's case is resolved in court, Seahawks fans may not have to worry about him missing any time due to suspension this year.
Based on my 15 years of experience as a probation officer, the plea of not guilty is not unusual at all. In fact, it's exceedingly rare for someone to plead guilty at their initial hearing. Just because Lynch pleaded not guilty doesn't necessarily mean that he'll ultimately take the case to trial. It just allows more time for further investigation and negotiations between the prosecutor and Golde--a practice that gives Lynch a better chance at due process and, at the same time, prevents the court system from being bogged down with countless trials on every single arrest.
Full-blown trials on misdemeanor charges are quite uncommon. The overwhelming majority of misdemeanor cases are resolved by way of pre-trial negotiation.
At the same time, investigation and negotiations taking a few months to resolve a case is quite normal. This isn't a case of Lynch getting any sort of preferential treatment because of his status as a football player.
So with everything sounding like it's proceeding normally, it's not a stretch at all for Lynch's case to take a few months to resolve, which would put it right around the end of the NFL regular season--and, thus, allow him to avoid league punishment this year.
The author grew up in Washington State and is a lifelong fan of the Seahawks. He's also a Featured Contributor in Sports with the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.