Winnipeg Jets star Dustin Byfuglien likely to go to trial on impaired charges

WINNIPEG – Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien will probably go to trial on charges that he operated a boat on a Minnesota lake while he was impaired.

The NHL player’s defence lawyer, Mitch Robinson, said Thursday he was unable to reach a plea agreement with the prosecutor in the case.

“We discussed what a fair resolution would be and we were miles apart,” Robinson said.

Byfuglien did not appear in court. He was with his team in Tampa Bay, where he was expected to return to the ice after a knee injury in December.

Robinson said the case is to be back in Hennepin County court on April 19, and he expects a trial date will be set for June.

“There’s always the possibility of some sort of settlement prior to trial, but I wouldn’t bet on it in this case.”

Police stopped a boat Byfuglien was driving on Lake Minnetonka on Aug. 31.

Court documents say the 26-year-old passed a breathalyzer test but was unable to successfully perform field sobriety tests.

Byfuglien refused to give a blood or urine sample, so he was examined by a police drug recognition expert who concluded he was under the influence of drugs.

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The expert found Byfuglien’s pulse rate and blood pressure were high. The report says his eyes were watery and he had a distinct brown stain on his tongue.

The documents say Byfuglien admitted to taking a muscle relaxer earlier that day but could not remember the name of it.

Byfuglien is charged with boating while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and refusing to provide a blood or urine sample. He is also accused of failing to display proper lights and failing to provide enough flotation devices for those on board the boat.

He pleaded not guilty in October to the four charges.

Robinson said his client was willing to plead guilty to operating the boat without lights, but the prosecutor wanted a plea on the most serious charge in the case—refusing the blood or urine test.

That charge carries a maximum of one year in jail, a $3,000 fine, or both. The other offences each carry a maximum of 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.