A jury has convicted a former Redskins football player of DUI in Fairfax County, following a trial that brought to the forefront concerns about head injuries suffered by retired football players.
D.C. DUI attorneys understand that often police officers automatically assume intoxication, when there may be another explanation for an action or behavior.
For example, when the U.S. Commerce Secretary was cited recently in California for hit-and-run, there was an automatic assumption that he was drunk. As it turned out, he had suffered a seizure.
In this case, Rickie Harris, a 69-year-old retired pro football player, attributed his erratic driving the night of the incident in question to dementia, brought on by the repeated blows he suffered to his head while playing football in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
It was Harris's third in Virginia within the last five years. He was reportedly sentenced to six months in prison. Upon hearing the verdict, Harris was quoted by a Washington Post reporter as saying that all the old players have a condition they call "CRS," or "Can't Remember Squat."
The night in question was in mid-December 2010. It was around 2:30 a.m. when an officer stopped him on Route 50. Harris had reportedly been weaving over the center line numerous times.
When the officer pulled him over, he said Harris's eyes were bloodshot. He also noted that he smelled of alcohol and appeared unsteady on his feet.
Harris reportedly first told the officer that he'd had two glasses of champagne at an autograph signing in D.C. Later, he said he'd had two or three glasses of beer. Even with this, an admission by someone with dementia can hardly be taken at face value.
Two hours after his arrest, Harris submitted to breathalyzer test, where his blood alcohol measured 0.08, which is the legal limit. The defense countered that the breathalyzer was not properly calibrated (which is perfectly believable, considering the issues we have had in D.C. with the Metro Police Department's breathalyzers, which were so poorly calibrated they are no longer in use).
Prosecutors in the case called the dementia argument a diversion. Apparently, the first jury who took on the case didn't think so. They deadlocked.
According to earlier reports, that jury wrestled with the dementia issue. The entire issue of long-term repercussions from head injuries caused in professional sports is one that has generated a great deal of discussion in recent months, particularly given a civil lawsuit filed by several retired NFL players. Harris has made it known that he and his family are exploring joining that litigation.
As proof of the dementia, family discussed that he had begun drinking after nearly two decades sober. His memory was reportedly spotty and he was unable to handle his money any longer. In a recent memory lapse episode, Harris's former wife told the jury that he had taken his small grandchild to the store, but then couldn't locate his vehicle once they were ready to go. The pair had to be taken home by a police officer.
And yet, he was still convicted by this second jury.
There may be issues Harris could raise upon appeal, and those avenues should certainly be explored.
Harris played for the Redskins from 1965 to 1970.
If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights or fill out our online contact form. Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards accepted. Call 202-596-5716.
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