Former Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs had an illegally high concentration of alcohol in his blood when he smashed his Corvette at 156 mph into another car last year, killing the young woman driving it. Ruggs, facing years behind bars, is arguing through his lawyers that the blood sample used to confirm that he was legally intoxicated should be excluded from the trial of the charges pending against him.
Via the Associated Press, Ruggs’s lawyers contend that police lacked a basis for having a judge authorize a warrant to obtain blood from Ruggs without his consent.
“True probable cause did not exist,” attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld argued in a filing submitted last month. “The mere fact of Mr. Ruggs’s involvement in a fatal vehicle collision does not, in itself, give rise to probable cause to believe he was driving under the influence of alcohol.”
Because Ruggs was hospitalized, he did not undergo a field sobriety test to determine potential impairment. Per the paperwork filed by Ruggs’s lawyers, a police officer asked his supervisor what to do. The supervisor said that “driving behavior and death alone is going to get you a warrant all day.”
A hearing will be held next month on the issue. A preliminary hearing in the case was moved from the coming week to September, due to the challenge to the securing of the blood sample.
The issue underscores the difference between factual guilt and legal guilt. Ultimately, the prosecution must present sufficient evidence to prove legal guilt, in a manner that respects all rights of the accused. Even if Ruggs was impermissibly under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, his rights can’t be trampled in an effort to prove it.
Still, what’s law enforcement supposed to do when a driver is injured in the crash and in need of medical care? Conduct a sobriety test before letting him get in the ambulance?
There has to be a way to balance the rights of the driver with the rights of the victim. Especially where, as in this case, Ruggs’s lawyers don’t seem to be challenging the accuracy of the test result.
The mere existence of the argument shows that anything and everything will be fair game when it comes to proving that Ruggs is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of all elements of the charges against him — including a potential defense based on the possible existence of reasonable doubt as to whether Ruggs or his girlfriend was driving the car. Rumors have lingered for months that, eventually, Ruggs potentially will contest that point. If he’ll fight the question of whether BAC evidence that points squarely to guilty should be rejected, any reasonably plausible argument is on the table.