Steelers Bell, Blount charged with marijuana possession
August 21, 2014 11:43 PM
Steelers running backs Le'Veon Bell, left, and LeGarrette Blount
Steelers running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were arrested by Ross police Wednesday at the intersection of McKnight Road and Braunlich Drive.
By Ed Bouchette and Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount have been cited with misdemeanor marijuana violations, and Bell with driving under the influence of marijuana, but their penalties -- if any -- from the NFL likely will take awhile to play out.
The charges open Bell and Blount to more scrutiny from NFL drug-testers, but they likely will not face a suspension this year.
Under the league's collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, commissioner Roger Goodell can impose up to a four-game suspension for players charged with illegal use or possession of drugs other than alcohol. In similar cases, Goodell has suspended players for one game and such action did not come until the season after they were charged.
That pattern of discipline is under the assumption that neither Bell nor Blount had any previous positive drug tests, which might have put them in a different category that would have subjected them to random tests and an automatic four-game suspension for a second violation. Such first positive tests are kept confidential by the league, so it cannot be determined if Bell and Blount had any previous positive test.
Bell, 22, is in his second season with the Steelers. Blount, 27, is with his fourth team in five seasons after he went undrafted in 2010. He signed a two-year, $3.85 million contract with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent from New England this year.
The fact that they have been charged with marijuana possession -- even if they are not convicted later -- subjects both to be placed into the NFL's drug-intervention stage and to career-long random testing throughout the year. Players who have not entered that stage are subject to drug tests once from April through early August but not thereafter.
Bell will not face additional NFL suspension even if convicted of the DUI charge, but the league could levy an additional fine.
A Ross motorcycle police officer smelled marijuana coming from a black Camaro registered to Bell and stopped the car in the parking lot of Pool City, 4700 McKnight Rd., Wednesday afternoon, police said. A bag of about 20 grams of marijuana was found in the car, Ross Det. Brian Kohlhepp said, adding that all three people in the car admitted to possessing it. In Pennsylvania, possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is considered to be for personal use, not distribution, and is a misdemeanor.
Bell was taken to UPMC Passavant, where his blood was tested for marijuana.
The state DUI statute has a zero-tolerance provision for controlled substances, said David J. Shrager, a Pittsburgh DUI and defense attorney.
Mercedes Dollson, 21, of California, who was riding in the backseat, also was charged with possession, Kohlhepp said. All three were "cooperative and polite," he added.
Pennsylvania court records indicate Bell previously has been charged with only two summary traffic violations. Shrager said that since Bell's record only contains those violations and he's a first-time DUI offender, he "most likely" would be eligible for accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD).
If admitted, Bell would have to comply with its requirements, including paying fines and court costs, losing his license for 60 days and taking highway-safety classes, said Shrager, who does not represent any of the parties. With a clean record in a probationary period, the charges could be withdrawn and his record expunged.
Court records did not indicate if the men had obtained lawyers or when their preliminary hearings have been scheduled. Citations likely will probably be mailed out early next week, Det. Kohlhepp said.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette. Lexi Belculfine: email@example.com, 412-263-1878 and Twitter @LexiBelc.
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