On the day of the trade deadline in the NFL news broke instead about a tragedy that occurred early Tuesday morning in Las Vegas. Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was involved in a car accident that resulted in a fatality while allegedly under the influence. Here is what is known at this time.
According to the Las Vegas Police Department (“LVMPD”) official Twitter account, at 3:39 a.m. there was an accident involving Ruggs’ vehicle and another car. The front of Ruggs’ Corvette collided with the rear of the other vehicle and resulted in medics on the scene finding the other individual already deceased upon their arrival. Ruggs showed “signs of impairment” on the scene and he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The LVMPD says he will be charged with “DUI resulting in death”.
THE LEGAL SITUATION
In the State of Nevada, the LVMPD is presumably looking at state statute NRS484C.430. That section states that an offender that has a prohibited concentration of an intoxicating substance in their body that “proximately causes the death of” another person is guilty of a Class B Felony. This is significant for several reasons.
DUI cases are, at their base level, a misdemeanor offense. While jail time is possible, they rarely result in jail time being imposed or significant punishment for first-time offenses. This was on display with the Melvin Gordon III and Josh Jacobs cases last year (both suspected DUIs). Ruggs’ case is different because the result of the crash (death or substantial bodily harm) enhances the charge into Felony territory. Even more significant is that the statute uses a legal term that triggers sentencing problems for anyone convicted of this charge. Any person convicted of this Class B Felony “shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum of not less than 2 years.”
The use of the word “shall” in the state statute triggers a sentencing mandate for any judge who has to sentence Ruggs if he is found guilty. This is akin to the sentence Plaxico Burress faced in New York when he ran afoul of mandatory sentencing laws concerning gun possession. Oftentimes DUI laws are similar in that they carry mandatory sentences. This is one of those cases.
There isn’t a lot known, however, about the important legal facts on which this case will turn because things are still developing. The police noted that Ruggs showed “signs of impairment” but it is not yet known what those signs were. Often in these cases, defendants will choose not to undergo Standardized Field Sobriety Tests or take a breathalyzer (or other chemical test) to determine if they had intoxicating substances in their system. More will be known on that once the police report from the incident is available.
Local news station 8NewsNow in Las Vegas reports that Ruggs has already been charged with the above-mentioned violation of law. But it is important to hold off on accepting that as fact quite yet. In the case of Josh Jacobs last year Jacobs was booked into the jail on DUI charges and the records showed that was the reason for his detention. However, reports that he had already been charged were false. It is wise to wait and see what develops because there is a difference between being booked into jail on possible charges and those charges already having been filed. Felony charges in particular have more steps to go through than misdemeanor charges for them to be officially filed (“indicted”). Ruggs is being held in jail right now until his arraignment Wednesday morning. At that time he’ll likely be given a bond that he can pay and be released.
THE OUTLOOK FOR HENRY RUGGS
This is a sad case no matter what the outcome for anyone involved. Ruggs will always have this on his conscience, and another family is dealing with the loss of a loved one today. It is important to remember that when discussing the case. But, as a Footballguys subscriber, understanding possible outcomes is what this article is for.
In a worst-case scenario for Ruggs, he would be charged with the felony as discussed, and then convicted based on any evidence gathered from him regarding his impairment. This would result in a minimum of two years in prison. This would substantially alter, or end, his football career. That is certainly on the table.
In the best-case scenario for Ruggs, he does not provide them a chemical test sample (breath, blood, or urine) to prove he was impaired, and he refuses Standardized Field Sobriety Tests so the State doesn't have much evidence. In that scenario, the charges could change to misdemeanor offenses, or be part of a pre-trial diversion program that could allow him to escape the mandatory sentencing.
The main problem with predicting this type of case is that it differs greatly from a standard DUI case because there is a victim. In cases with victims, the family will get the chance to offer their thoughts on sentencing, give an impact statement, and sway the judge with their opinions. But even more important is that Prosecutors can give whatever plea deals they want on cases without victims because the only entity they answer to is the state. That is much harder to do with a victim and their family involved.
Las Vegas Police and courts showed during the Jacobs case that sometimes being a celebrity and being a first-time offender can have a drastic impact on the outcome of a case. But the case involving Ruggs is vastly different. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team give Ruggs some time away, or for the league to place him on the Commissioner Exempt list at some point. However, the league is loathe to act while legal situations play out and this one is likely to stretch into the offseason.
Right now Ruggs is toxic in several ways. He can’t be traded from your team because his value is in the tank, and holding him for dynasty purposes may mean that eventually, he is completely useless as a fantasy football player because he is on the exempt list or in prison. It is impossible to know how this case will turn out legally, but things are dark for Ruggs. At this point, it is important to wait and see what he is charged with and what the police report says for potential evidence or any affirmative defenses Ruggs might be able to assert. The legal situation is not bright for the Raiders’ young receiver but stay tuned as the case develops, beginning Wednesday, November 3rd with Ruggs’ arraignment in court.Follow @DrewFBGAuctions