Ex-Bears QB will plead no contest to DUI

Updated: January 9, 2004, 2:04 PM ET
Associated Press

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon will plead no contest to a drunken driving charge but is challenging a pair of breath tests only to reduce his fine and other penalties, his lawyer said Friday.

Pensacola lawyer Tommy Ratchford said he filed motions in nearby Milton to obtain records on the Breathalyzer used to test McMahon, who led the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl title in 1986, and interview a sheriff's deputy who maintained the machine.

McMahon eventually will accept a prosecutor's standard offer to first offenders charged with driving under the influence -- no jail time in exchange for a no-contest plea -- but not until after the testing issue is resolved, Ratchford said.

"Jim McMahon is guilty of DUI," he said. "All I'm trying to do is determine whether or not the breath test was administered properly or appropriately."

A Santa Rosa County sheriff's deputy arrested McMahon at 2 a.m. on Nov. 9 in Navarre. The Chicago resident and former Brigham Young star, who also played for San Diego, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Arizona, Cleveland and Green Bay, was in the Florida Panhandle to play in a charity golf tournament.

McMahon's blood-alcohol level tested at 0.261 percent and 0.258 percent, three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent. The results are out of line with the amount of alcohol McMahon says he drank, Ratchford said. He declined to say how much that was.

Ratchford said he also has learned the machine used for the tests was getting its once-a-month maintenance on Oct. 31 when the officer doing it left in the middle of the procedure to respond to a call.

The motions are designed to discover if the maintenance was completed and if so, whether it was done before midnight. Machines must receive maintenance once each calendar month, so going past midnight would have missed the October deadline, Ratchford said.

If the answer is "no" in either case, subsequent tests could not be used as evidence until the machine is recertified by the state, he said.

Ratchford said McMahon is challenging the tests at his insistence.

"He's ashamed. He's embarrassed," Ratchford said. "If he had his way he'd go in and plead guilty tomorrow."

McMahon's plea date is Jan. 29, but Ratchford said it probably will be delayed because it's unlikely the test issue can be resolved in time.

Based on the tests, McMahon is charged with having a blood-alcohol level in excess of 0.2 percent, which would double the range of his fine to a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $1,000.

It also means he would have to install a breath-testing device in his vehicle. If he fails a test, the vehicle will not start. The devices cost up to $70 per month, are inconvenient and embarrassing, Ratchford said.

He said McMahon also could face alcoholism counseling, but he has had psychological testing since his arrest that indicates he is not an alcoholic.

"If I can get rid of the breath tests then it would be a routine, vanilla DUI," Ratchford said. "We're talking about degree here, not guilt or innocence."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press