Chris Simms turns down plea deal

Tennessee Titans quarterback Chris Simms turned down a plea deal surrounding his arrest for driving in NY under the influence of marijuana on July 1, 2010. It was reported yesterday that Simms was offered what I as an attorney would call a very sweet plea bargain for this arrest, but the player has opted to go to court instead. The deal offered is said to have included no jail time, no criminal record if the plea was taken with the misdemeanor charge being to a traffic infraction, a $500 fine, 90 day suspension of his license and five days of community service.

The police report from the arrest indicated that Simms made an “erratic” turn near a sobriety checkpoint in Manhattan that morning. In the car with Simms was his wife Danielle, who was reported to be pregnant at the time.

The police claim after they pulled him over, he opened his driver’s side window and the strong scent of cannabis escaped, in a scene that sounded reminiscent of those “Don’t Drink and Drive” commercials. The report is also believed to have said that Simms admitted to smoking weed earlier in the evening so he was booked and released. Simms was not tested for drugs and an alcohol test that was taken came back negative. To be fair, Simms denies ever saying anything that stupid to the police despite the officer’s written characterization of the player being “zombie-like”.

He and his father Phil, an ex NFL quarterback and current television analyst, can afford good lawyers so he certainly got one to handle this case. Now that he’s going to trial scheduled for March 1, 2011, the stakes are up to one year in jail if convicted for the misdemeanor, although he wouldn’t get that as a first time offender.

What would make Simms choose this route? The NFL Personal Conduct Policy may be one of the reasons. After suffering a near career ending injury while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and making a trek through Denver before landing with the Titans, Simms must believe he still has a career in the NFL. Fear of Roger Goodell’s suspension hammer may have encouraged him to roll the dice to preserve whatever career remains.

I understand there is no positive drug test and it’s his word against the cops who stopped him, but it’s a gamble after that plea deal was granted. Come back for updates on this case in my Duffy’s Court column.

Used with permission of the author.

Paula Duffy is a national sports columnist for and the Huffington Post and regularly comments on sports/legal matters for radio affiliates of ESPN and Fox Sports. She founded the sports information site, Incidental Contact, is the author of a line of audio books designed for sports novices and in her spare time practices law in Los Angeles.

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