Tiger Woods was one of the many people who were arrested on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence (also known as Driving While Impaired) this past Memorial Day weekend.
Below you can find out about the facts of the arrest, why the facts are sufficient to convict for DUI, and how to ensure that you do not make the same mistakes that he did.
Facts of the Arrest
At 3 A.M., Tiger Woods’s car was pulled to the right shoulder of the street with the engine running, the turning signal flashing, and the brake lights illuminated.When the officer’s first approached Woods, he was asleep behind the wheel. The officers had to physically wake him into consciousness.
The officers described Woods as sluggish and sleepy. They reported that he had slow and slurred speech. Woods allegedly was unable to walk unassisted.
The officers then asked him a series of questions. The police report states that Woods responded to the questions, but was disoriented and did not know where he was coming from or where he currently was. In response to the officers’ questions, Tiger Woods stated that he takes several prescription medications.
When the officers ordered Woods to participate in Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, he complied. One of the tests, the walk and turn test, requires the participant to stand still with one foot in front of the other in a heel-to-toe position while the officer states the instructions for the test. Following the instructions, the test requires the participant to walk heel-to-toe nine steps in a straight line, take a series of small steps to turn around, and walk heel-to-toe back another nine steps. The officers reported that Woods failed this test because he was unable to stay in a heel-to-toe stance during the instructions, he missed heel-to-toe on every single step, and he stepped off of the line several times.
The officers also reported that they asked Woods to recite the alphabet backwards, and when they asked if he understood the instructions, he stated: “Yes, recite the entire national anthem backwards.”
Woods consented to take a breath test and a urine test. The result of the breath test was 0.00 Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) score. The results of the urine test have not yet been released.
The officers described Woods as “fully cooperative.”
Following the arrest, Woods released a statement that said: “I understand the severity of what I did and take full responsibility for my actions. I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved. What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medication. I didn’t realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly.”
Was This A DUI?
Some may think that what Tiger Woods did doesn’t constitute a DUI for a few reasons.
First, you may think he can’t be convicted of DUI because the car wasn’t in motion. However, Woods was sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine running. Unfortunately, at least in DC, the only requirement is that he be in “control” of the vehicle. The DC courts have found that someone is “in control” of the car even if they the engine is off but the keys are easily accessible, or if they are pushing the vehicle from the exterior, or if they are attempting to turn the wheel even when the keys are not in the ignition. So, sitting in the car with the engine running certainly fits the bill.
Second, you may think that Woods can’t be convicted of DUI because there was no alcohol in his system and he only admitted to taking prescription medication. However, someone commits the offense of DUI if they were under the influence of any drug. A “drug” is defined as any chemical substance that affects the individual’s body or mind, which includes prescribed or over the counter medication. Therefore, Tiger Woods can be convicted of DUI if the government can prove that the prescription drug affected his ability to drive.
And, for reasons that will be discussed below, the government will probably be able to prove it.
What Woods Did Wrong
Tiger Woods did many things in relation to this arrest that will severely harm his defense for his DUI case. We will take you through each of them to show what he should have done differently.
The first thing that Tiger Woods did wrong is participate in the officer’s interrogation. One thing that people usually don’t understand is that you never have to answer the officer’s questions. When an officer pulls you over or stops you on suspicion of DUI, they will generally ask: where you are coming from; where you are headed; if you have had anything to drink tonight; how many drinks; where did you have those drinks; when was your last drink; and are you sick or on any medications. What they do not tell you is that every one of your answers to these statements will be held against you if your case proceeds to trial.
When Tiger answered these questions, the officers believed that his speech was “slowed and slurred.” When the officers asked him where he was coming from and where he was going, they reported that his answers made him seem disoriented.
Further, Tiger Woods’ response that he had taken a number of prescription medications was an admission that will certainly be used against him in court to show that the intoxication was caused by the medication. It is likely due to this statement that the officers chose to make Woods submit to a urine test, which will indicate the presence of prescription medication.
If Woods had just said quickly that he was not answering any questions instead of participating in this interrogation, the officers would not have any of these observations to use against him. They may have one sentence (“I choose not to answer any questions without an attorney”) that they can claim sounded “slurred,” but one sentence will likely not be sufficient to prove intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt. The answers that he gave and the manner in which he gave them certainly will be used against him in trial and are detrimental to his defense.
Second, Tiger Woods participated in standardized field sobriety tests. Most officers order people to participate in these tests and do not make it clear that they are optional – but they are. You have every right to refuse to participate in these tests. Because he participated in the tests, there is evidence that he was unable to follow instructions, to balance heel-to-toe, or walk as required. This will be particularly harmful to Tiger Woods’ defense because, as an athlete, the defense of a“natural lack of coordination” will likely not be successful in his case.
Had Woods refused to answer questions and/or participate in the field sobriety tests, he would most likely have still been arrested. Of course, he was arrested even though he participated in these tests – so “cooperating” only hurt his case instead of helped it.
Third, Tiger Woods consented to take both a breath test and a urine test. Now, in his case, the breath test was helpful to him. The Blood Alcohol Content level of zero definitely will rule out any intoxication due to alcohol. However, his consent to take a urine test will likely confirm his admissions and show that he was under the influence of prescription medication. Had he just taken the breath test – or no test at all – the prosecution would not have any scientific evidence that there was any substance in his system.
Finally, Woods released a statement following his arrest that both admitted responsibility and provided an admission that the prescription medications had “strongly” affected him. This statement, along with the statement that he made to the officers regarding prescription medications, will be seen as admissions of liability and will be used against him in court.
If Woods had refused to answer any questions or participate in any testing from the beginning and not released a statement subsequent to the arrest, he would likely still have a pending DUI charge against him. However, the prosecution would not have the following evidence to use against him in criminal court: his answers that made him seem disoriented; his slurred speech; his slowed speech; his admission that he was on prescription medications; his inability to balance; his inability to follow the instructions of the field sobriety tests; his urine test results; his subsequent admission of culpability; or his confirmation of intoxication.
Tiger Woods’ defense team has a difficult hill to climb. Learn from his mistakes. While you want to be respectful to the officers, being “cooperative” is almost never in your best interest.