Ravens' Sams not guilty of DUI

Return specialist found guilty only of a lane violation

May 16, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams was acquitted of driving under the influence and negligent driving yesterday in Towson District Court after prosecutors were unable to prove he was impaired while operating his vehicle last year.

The five-hour trial ended with Sams being found guilty of a lane violation, which carries a $90 fine and one point on his driving record.

Sams, 26, who ranked in the NFL's top 10 last season in both punt and kickoff returns, was arrested about 2 a.m. Oct. 3 after he had reportedly been straddling two lanes, according to Maryland State Police.

Sams' defense attorney, Andrew Alperstein, said there was no evidence to convict because Sams was never asked to take a Breathalyzer test and the results of the field sobriety test were "compromised."

"He's been exonerated today and he's very excited about that," Alperstein said. "That's what he's been saying from the beginning that he's not guilty of driving under the influence or driving while impaired of alcohol last year."

The ruling might save Sams from a suspension by the NFL. This was Sams' second drunken driving charge in a 14-month span after being given probation before judgment in an August 2005 case.

The NFL declined to comment on Sams yesterday.

Dressed in a black suit with a pink shirt and turquoise tie, Sams gave a big smile and hugged his lawyers a few minutes after the verdict. Through his lawyer he declined to comment when leaving the courthouse.

"I think there's a tendency with professional athletes to assume because they're charged ... they're automatically guilty," Alperstein said. "We should all be cautious about that."

According to police, Sams swerved on the ramp leading from northbound Jones Falls Expressway onto the outer loop of Interstate 695 and then straddled two lanes on the Beltway just before the Greenspring Avenue exit.

After stopping Sams' Chevrolet Tahoe, the trooper said there was a "strong" odor of alcohol coming from Sams even though Sams had a handful of sunflower seeds in his mouth. Sams first denied drinking any alcohol that night but later admitted he had a vodka and cranberry drink a few hours earlier, according to police testimony.

Sams, though, was never asked to take a Breathalyzer test. His field sobriety test also wasn't fully documented on the trooper's video because it occurred in front of Sams' vehicle, which blocked the camera in the trooper's car.

Sams' lawyers used testimony from an expert on DUI procedure to detail how Sams' field sobriety test was administered improperly and called on two Ravens trainers to explain how Sams' injured ankle could have affected his performance throughout the test.

"I'm not persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that he drove while impaired," District Judge Nancy Purpura said in handing out her decision.

It is unknown whether Sams, who broke his ankle in November, will participate in the Ravens' first minicamp, which begins today. He walked out of the courthouse with a slight limp.

Sams has been the Ravens' return specialist for the past three seasons after being signed as an undrafted rookie in 2004. He ranks second in team history in combined return yardage (4,304), scoring two touchdowns on special teams. But the Ravens used a third-round pick last month on Yamon Figurs, who is expected to compete with Sams for the return specialist job.

"As both we said and B.J. said at the beginning, there is a due process," Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "There is an opportunity to give your side of the story. We're glad how it worked out for B.J."

Notes -- This week will mark the first Ravens practices for running back Willis McGahee, who was traded from the Buffalo Bills in March. These minicamps will primarily focus on the passing game. The Ravens want to see what routes best suit McGahee and how quickly he picks up pass protection. "These next five weeks will be huge for Willis," coach Brian Billick said. ... Ravens quarterback Steve McNair is also expected to attend this week's voluntary minicamp. He was arrested on a driving under the influence-related charge May 9.jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.