The Current Legal Situation of Josh Jacobs

Looking at the legal issues surrounding Josh Jacobs and assessing any possible punishment from the NFL

The offseason is officially here and that can sometimes mean legal trouble. Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs was arrested just 12 hours after his 2020 season finale with the team on Sunday. He was involved in a single-car accident in Las Vegas around 4:42 a.m. Monday, was subsequently treated for minor injuries at the hospital, and charged with an impaired driving offense. Police have stated he is being charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence), but as of Monday afternoon, his attorneys were disputing that claim.

The question for fantasy managers with Josh Jacobs on their roster is what kind of fallout will there be for his availability in the fall. The concern is that according to the NFL’s Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse Jacobs could miss three games in the 2021 season if he is convicted of an alcohol-related violation. That is, at this time, impossible to know because of the various moving parts involved in the legal case and the league’s review of the facts alleged in the incident. However, it is wise to follow the path of the case going forward to see if the three games will come into play. His initial appearance has been set for March.

LEGAL ISSUES

The first major concern for Jacobs is that the case involved an accident. It is helpful that there were no other cars involved, but Prosecutors generally take a dim view of someone who is impaired and causes an accident. It is seen as mere happenstance that their malfeasance didn’t hurt an innocent driver. But the other important issue is that as a defense attorney some of the best challenges available in a DUI case are the ones surrounding the stop and subsequent actions by the officer on the scene. Without going into individual detail on those specific arguments, suffice it to say that it is a disadvantage when mounting a defense to lose those avenues of argument because of the accident.

The second issue Jacobs faces is the fact that the officer on the scene noticed signs of impairment as the accident was being handled. This means that either Jacobs himself showed signs – speech, appearance, balance, smell – or the car had a smell or other evidence in it. The suspicion of impairment came from somewhere, and unlike when an individual is in a closed car and rolls down their window (thereby releasing a more concentrated odor), the impairment was apparent enough in the open air to warrant the charge. Obviously, this does not mean he is guilty. It simply means he has another hurdle to cross if he is to win this case or make a compelling argument for a plea bargain.

If convicted of the charge itself Jacobs would face a mandatory two days in jail which could be avoided by completing community service. He would also be subject to a license suspension and a mandatory fine. It is unlikely Jacobs would spend any time incarcerated, especially if reports that he has no prior record are accurate.

The major issue in the case will be what kind of evidence the State has against him other than the officer’s observations. His attorneys are claiming that no blood tests exist which would show that Jacobs is impaired. If so, that means it is unlikely the State would be able to show how much (if any) drugs or alcohol were in his system. They would have to make the case based on circumstantial evidence, which is allowed, but more difficult. This often opens up avenues for negotiation between the parties to settle the case in a way that both punishes Jacbos but also gives him a break because it is a first offense. The majority of the case is likely to hinge on the existence of any chemical tests (blood, breath, or urine), and as of now, there aren’t enough details to know if such a test exists, and subsequently which way the case will go.

NFL SANCTIONS

The 2020 version of the Substance Abuse policy is pretty clear when it comes to violations of this type. Section 2.2 specifically speaks to “Violations of Law Involving Alcohol”. There are a couple of important sentences to pull from this section to assess Jacobs' situation.

1 – “The Commissioner will review and may impose a fine, suspension, or another appropriate discipline if a Player is convicted of or admits to a violation of the law (including within the context of a diversionary program, deferred adjudication, disposition of supervision, or similar arrangement including but not limited to nolo contendere) relating to the use of alcohol.”

2 – “Absent aggravating circumstances, discipline for a first offense will be a suspension without pay for three (3) regular or postseason games.”

With respect to #1, it is noteworthy that the word “may” is used rather than stronger words like “shall” or “will”. That means he has latitude for how to handle any violation of the law involving alcohol. The parenthetical is important to remember as well because even if Jacobs is able to undergo counseling or other pre-trial diversionary processes to avoid a conviction the NFL purposely included those situations to still be defined as alcohol violations. What isn’t clear is how the Commissioner would treat something like a pre-trial diversion situation that doesn’t involve a conviction.

However, #2 above is crucial as well. There doesn’t seem to be any aggravating circumstances as defined by this Section, so that is not something to be too concerned about. However, in this sentence, the much stronger word "will" is used. Those are words that lawyers are paid to pay attention to. This means that even if Jacobs escapes a DUI conviction, he may still end up with a violation as defined by this section, and that means the Commissioner "will" impose a three-game suspension. The two parts of the section seem to be slightly at odds with each other, but the best explanation is that the first part of the section was written in for the Commissioner to impose sanctions when a player escapes legal repercussions but is still involved with something alcohol-related. That could end up applying to Jacobs, but again, there are too many unknowns to say for certain.

WHAT SHOULD MANAGERS DO WITH JOSH JACOBS?

Hold him and ride it out. As of now, his value has taken a hit so he’s a poor trade candidate to unload. However, there doesn’t seem to be much concern that he fits the “aggravating circumstances” enumerated in Section 2.2 (injury to others, extreme intoxication levels) so the maximum exposure right now figures to be three games, and it is reasonable to assume those games will come at the beginning of the season. His court case should be concluded by then.

Understand that the opinions in this article are based on available evidence less than 48 hours after the arrest. Is it possible there is a chemical test that creates more problems for Jacobs? Sure. Is it possible the facts of the case are weak and Jacobs’ case gets dismissed? Of course. But these are outlier outcomes. It is best to operate under the rubric of Section 2.2 and assume there is maximum exposure of three games. The developing details in the DUI case will help dial in the exact punishment Jacobs will ultimately receive.


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