Pittsburgh, PA- Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell accepted a plea deal Wednesday stemming from marijuana DUI and possession charges he received in August as he a teammate LeGarrette Blount were on their way to the airport to attend an out-of-town game.
As part of the plea bargain, Bell will enter a diversionary program and upon successful completion he will have his record expunged. The program requires Bell to serve 15 months of probation, his license will be suspended for 60 days, and he will be required to participate in drunk driving school and a victim impact panel. He will pay over $2,000 in fines, according to WTAE.
By entering the diversionary program, Bell doesn’t have to plead guilty the charges and he will emerge with a clean record if he completes the program without further arrests or incidents.
Bell and Blount, along with a female companion, were pulled over by a motorcycle officer who smelled marijuana coming from their vehicle. Bell had red, glassy eyes, but he initially denied having any marijuana in his possession.
After further prodding, Bell eventually admitted to having marijuana in his vehicle—it was less than 30 grams–and told the officer he smoked marijuana just minutes before he was pulled over, adding that he was not aware driving high was illegal.
Bell and Blount were charged with marijuana possession; only Bell was charged with DUI.
The NFL tests Bell weekly for drug use and will most likely face a two-game suspension once his criminal case is resolved.
Not all states allow individuals charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to plea to a lesser charge. But many states, such as New Jersey and Florida, allow people to enter diversionary programs for minor drug charges or DUIs.
For some, a diversionary program is a great way to avoid the harsher penalties of a DUI or other minor criminal offenses, and allows a person to emerge from the program with a clean criminal record. That’s a very important point since a criminal record, even for a DUI or minor drug possession charge, can be a major barrier for a person depending on the career path they choose.
State or federal workers, doctors, nurses, attorneys, pharmacists and other professionals could easily lose their jobs and be barred from obtaining a professional license. If the individual is charged with another DUI or criminal offense in the future, a previous conviction can weigh heavily on the sentencing they receive.
For immigrants, agreeing to a diversionary program or a plea bargain could be considered a criminal conviction for immigration purpose and could lead to deportation. State laws vary, but on the federal level, a conviction or diversionary program can count against you.
Before a person ever agrees to a diversionary program, they need to find a DUI lawyer who can explain the benefits and the possible consequences of agreeing to such a program or accepting a plea bargain. If you are facing a DUI or minor criminal charge, take it seriously a get the advice of an attorney who focuses on DUI defense.