WINNIPEG – A police drug recognition expert concluded that Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien was under the influence of drugs when police stopped the boat he was driving on a Minnesota lake last month.
Court documents also say the 26-year-old National Hockey League player had trouble speaking, was unsteady on his feet and smelled of alcohol.
Byfuglien is facing four charges that include boating while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The documents detailing the charges say an officer had stopped the boat on Lake Minnetonka because the craft was operating without proper lights.
“Mr. Byfuglien’s speech was slurred, he was unsteady on his feet, his eyes were bloodshot and watery and he smelled of a consumed alcoholic beverage,” says the arresting officer’s statement, obtained by The Canadian Press. “Mr. Byfuglien was unable to successfully perform field sobriety tests as requested.”
The documents say Byfuglien submitted to a breathalyzer test and registered .03, which is within the legal limit. But “based on his observations,” the officer decided Byfuglien was under the influence of something and placed him under arrest.
“Mr. Byfuglien stated that he had taken a muscle relaxer earlier that day, but that he could not remember the name of the muscle relaxer,” the documents say. “Mr. Byfuglien stated that he takes a ‘handful’ of supplements from 16 or 17 different bottles every day and that he does not know the names of the supplements.”
Byfuglien refused to give a blood or urine sample, but was examined by a police drug recognition expert. Byfuglien’s pulse rate was high, as was his blood pressure. His eyes were watery and he had a “distinct brown stain on his tongue,” according to the expert.
“He formed the opinion that Mr. Byfuglien was under the influence of a controlled substance and was unable to safely operate a watercraft,” the court papers say.
Byfuglien is also charged with refusing to provide a blood or urine sample, failing to display proper lights and failing to provide enough flotation devices for himself and the three passengers on board.
Refusing the blood or urine test is the most serious charge carrying a maximum one year in jail, a $3,000 fine or both. The other three charges each carry a maximum of 90 days in jail $1,000 fine or both.
Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of the Winnipeg Jets, said the hockey club is taking the charges seriously.
“After allowing the legal process to play out to this point and gathering as much information as we could, we are fully aware of the charges against Dustin,” he said in a statement.
“While we will continue to support him in this situation, we understand the severity of the charges involved in this case. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and, until the continuing legal process is completed, we will have no further comment.”
The player’s lawyer didn’t return calls seeking comment. Police declined to discuss the case now that it is before the courts.
Prosecuting attorney Steven Tallen said Byfuglien has the choice to appear in court—or have a lawyer appear on his behalf—and plead to the charges.
“He’ll either enter a not guilty or guilty plea, or he’ll file motion papers claiming the stop was illegal or there is some constitutional reason to dismiss the case,” Tallen said. “What happens after that, depends on him.”
Byfuglien is scheduled to appear in a Minnesota court Oct. 21. He has previously declined to comment about what happened. He says he’s been advised by his lawyer not to talk about it.
News of the charges came as the Jets, newly relocated to Winnipeg from Atlanta, were to take the ice Tuesday night for the first time in their hometown against the Columbus Blue Jackets.