“I’m always hopeful we’ll be able to settle these cases without going to trial,” a disappointed Robinson told the Sun. “Because there’s never any guarantee what a jury is going to do.”
There’s also no guarantee what customs and immigration officials will do if Byfuglien winds up with a criminal record.
Robinson says his research indicates people convicted of boating while intoxicated and/or refusing to take a chemical test, both criminal charges Byfuglien faces, are not allowed to cross the Canada-U.S. border.
“Very concerning,” is how Robinson described that possibility.
At the same time, athletes with criminal convictions have moved freely back and forth in the past, after applying for special permits.
The maximum penalty for a conviction is one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. A typical sentence is two years probation, a $900 fine, a chemical evaluation and participation in an alcohol education program, Robinson said.
Byfuglien’s next court date is April 19, at which time a trial date will likely be set for some time in June.
Robinson said technically the two sides could still reach a deal before a trial starts, but he’s not optimistic that will happen.
“There’s no reasonable offer on the table,” he said.
A Minnesota native, Byfuglien was arrested on Lake Minnetonka, in the Minneapolis suburb of Excelsior, Aug. 31.
In addition to the two criminal charges, he is also accused of boating without navigational lights and without enough flotation gear for his passengers.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges in October.
Saying his client was treated unfairly, Robinson says Byfuglien’s only mistake was refusing the blood and urine tests after passing a field coordination test and an initial breathalyzer.
“He blew .03, well under the legal limit of .08,” Robinson said. “He was confused. He said, ‘I’m not going to cooperate any further.’ Had he taken a blood or urine test, they would have detected he didn’t have anything in his system.”
Robinson said there’s no indication Byfuglien’s status played a role in the arrest.
“They knew who he was,” Robinson said. “I can’t say that impacted their treatment of him.”
According to a police statement submitted to the court, a drug recognition expert noted Byfuglien showed signs of drug impairment, including watery eyes, a fast pulse, high body temperature and a brown stain on his tongue.
A sheriff's deputy told the court in the statement that 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" after his boat was pulled over.
“They suspect he was under the influence of something,” Robinson said. “It’s baseless. How can you say he’s under the influence of some substance if you don’t specify what that substance is? If they believed he was under the influence of marijuana, they’d say he smelled like marijuana.”
Robinson says he hasn’t decided whether or not he’ll put Byfuglien on the stand.
The 26-year-old defenceman, a Jets alternate captain who won a Stanley Cup with Chicago two years ago, was with the team in Tampa Bay, Thursday.
“It has been on his mind,” Robinson acknowledged of the court case. “But he’s primarily concerned about playing hockey and making the playoffs.”
Winnipeg’s only selection for the NHL all-star game, Byfuglien missed the Jets last 16 games, including the all-star festivities in Ottawa.