Ex-Titans QB Simms pleads not guilty in drugged-driving case

NEW YORK -- Chris Simms pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges he drove his car while high on marijuana, and an officer testified the former NFL quarterback told him at a checkpoint that he had been smoking.

The son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan courtroom to charges of driving while impaired and driving while impaired by drugs. Simms, 29, could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.

Simms, a former Tennessee Titans backup quarterback who is without an NFL contract, was stopped at a Manhattan police checkpoint July 1. The officer who arrested him testified Thursday that Simms admitted he had taken four puffs of marijuana but there was none left in the car.

Officer Francisco Acosta of the Manhattan South Task force testified, saying he stopped Simms after he made an erratic turn near the checkpoint in his Mercedes Benz sometime after midnight. Acosta said Simms' wife was in the front seat and two men were in the back seat.

Police tested him at the scene for alcohol, and it was negative, but they didn't test him for drugs. Simms was arrested and taken away in a police van while his wife told him to keep quiet, Acosta testified.

Prosecutors played a tape of Simms taken at the police precinct, where the ex-player refused to take a urine test but did an alcohol breath test that came up negative. In the tape, Simms appears lucid but looks tired.

Simms' defense attorneys tried to bring the officer's credibility into question.

The officer testified that when he approached the vehicle, the smell of marijuana was so strong that it made his tongue numb and gave him a headache.

"Does that happen to you often?" defense attorney Harvey Steinberg asked.

Judge Charles Solomon said he'd rule Nov. 19 on whether or not the officer had probable cause to arrest Simms.

Simms told the Tennessean newspaper in August that he "definitely didn't say" he had been smoking marijuana. One of his lawyers has said Simms was talking only about smoking cigarettes.

Simms' lawyers also have said police had no justification for stopping or arresting him, an argument at the crux of Thursday's hearing. Prosecutors say the arrest was lawful.

Simms has started 16 games during his NFL career, with a 7-9 record. A third-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003, he ruptured his spleen during a 2006 game against the Carolina Panthers and had to undergo emergency surgery.

After Tampa Bay released him, Simms went to Tennessee in 2008, played for the Denver Broncos last year as an unrestricted free agent and returned to the Titans last April.

A judge excused Simms from a court date in August, amid Titans training camp. The team released him Sept. 4.

Simms' father played 14 seasons with the Giants, leading them to two Super Bowl victories. He is an announcer and analyst for CBS Sports.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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