The attorney for Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, Ivan Golde, has offered NFL.com a preview of his current defense strategy: Lynch may not have been drunk. As a former probation officer, I have a hard time swallowing this defense.
Lynch joined the NFL arrest parade on July 14 and was formally charged with DUI on July 18. According to Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times, Lynch was stopped by police after he was allegedly weaving and had two near-collisions with vehicles in an adjacent lane. While O'Neil notes that "[n]o mention was made in the report of any measurement of Lynch's blood-alcohol content," NFL.com is reporting that Lynch tested at a .08 blood-alcohol content on-scene.
According to NFL.com, "Golde raised issues with the two separate blood-alcohol tests administered to Lynch. The second test, given some 40 minutes later, registered a higher .10 blood-alcohol content on Lynch, Golde said."
"There's a better than 50 percent chance he's .06 or .07 (in blood-alcohol content)," Golde told NFL.com. "Those tests have a margin of error. Science is there to prove it."
Based on my 15 years of experience as a probation officer, where the No. 1 offense for which I supervised people was DUI, Golde's argument seems hollow.
He is correct that the portable breath tests (PBTs) that are given on-scene have a margin of error. He is correct that science is there to prove it. Generally, results of a PBT are not used in court as the end-all be-all "proof" that someone was intoxicated.
PBTs are just one of many tools at a police officer's disposal to help determine whether further investigation into the possibility of impairment is warranted. Other tools include the officer's eyes, ears, and nose, as well as a variety of field sobriety tests that are given at the scene as additional indicators of potential impairment.
The second breath test that was provided by Lynch was very likely done on a certified machine at a nearby police station. Those machines are quite different from PBTs. The certified machines involve very specific and scientific regulations, procedures, and measures that give a much more accurate indicator of a person's blood-alcohol content. These are the results that are often introduced as evidence in court proceedings.
If an officer stops a vehicle and the driver gives indications of impairment by way of the officer's observations, the field sobriety tests, and the PBT, that person is then transported to the nearest police facility that houses a certified breath tester. If the driver tests at .08 or higher on the certified machine, that's generally the "final straw," so to speak, and the arrest is made.
The second (certified) test coming 40 minutes after the initial (PBT) test is not unusual at all. Unless the vehicle is stopped in the parking lot of a police station, it takes some time to transport a person to the certified test.
The second test showing a higher blood-alcohol content than the initial test is also not unusual at all. It takes time for the human body to process alcohol. A person who polishes off a drink, waves goodbye to friends, and heads home, getting stopped 10 minutes later, is very likely going to have a higher blood-alcohol content on the second test as his or her body processes that last drink.
Golde's position implies that the California Highway Patrol made some sort of error in how they dealt with Lynch at the time of his arrest. Without being there and witnessing what happened for myself, I have no way of knowing one way or the other. That's for a judge in Alameda County, Calif., to decide.
But the general process of what apparently happened makes perfect sense to me. It sounds like a normal DUI stop and arrest. Golde's contention that Lynch might have been .06 or .07 on scene, rather than the .08 that apparently showed on the PBT, is immaterial. The officer likely only used that PBT reading as one of several indicators of impairment and made the decision to continue the investigation by giving Lynch a second--and much more scientific--certified breath test.
When Lynch allegedly tested at a .10 blood-alcohol content on the certified machine, that's when the arrest was made.
Golde's argument comes across as splitting hairs, and while one can never predict what's going to happen in pretrial negotiations or in court, I find it difficult to believe that contesting the PBT results is going to do Lynch much good in front of a judge.
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.
Also by this Author:
- Politics & Government
- Marshawn Lynch
- Seattle Seahawks