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Former NFL player to avoid jail on drug charges

Court records reveal that former National Football League player Barry Cofield has entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors in Florida that will see him avoid jail time on drunk driving and drug possession charges. The 34-year-old Cofield, who retired in 2015 after playing on the defensive lines of the New York Giants and Washington Redskins for 10 seasons, will lose his driving privileges for six months and serve 12 months of probation for the DUI charge. The heroin possession charge has been referred to drug court, and observers expect it to be dismissed after Cofield completes a substance abuse treatment program.

Cofield's legal problems began in July 2018 when deputies from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office found him passed out behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade SUV on an Interstate 4 off-ramp. When deputies roused the former athlete, he disobeyed their orders to put his vehicle into park and instead attempted to flee the scene according to the incident report.

While Cofield did not exceed the posted speed limit or make evasive maneuvers during the ensuing pursuit, he did swerve between lanes and sideswipe another vehicle according to deputies. The brief chase came to an end when Cofield's SUV struck a police vehicle that had maneuvered to block his path. During an inventory of his possessions, deputies allegedly discovered two bags of a substance later identified as heroin.

The outcome of this case reveals how prosecutors will often agree to reduce drug crime charges or penalties in return for a guilty plea even when law enforcement has provided them with compelling evidence. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may encourage further concessions by pointing out mitigating factors like sincere remorse, a previously unblemished criminal record and a steady job.

Source: USA Today, "Barry Cofield pleads no contest on heroin possession and DUI charges, will likely avoid jail time", Tom Schad, March 6, 2019

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