It’s tempting to think that with enough money or fame, DUIs would never be a problem. However, last year’s headlines reading “Tiger Woods arrested for DUI” show that nothing can save you from a DUI charge.
One of America’s best-known athletes got arrested, charged, and ultimately checked in to rehab. It goes to show that a DUI can happen to anyone – fame and bribes can’t help any intoxicated driver. If it happened to Tiger Woods, it can happen to you.
But how did it happen, and what was the aftermath of the Tiger Woods DUI? We’ll give you the whole story from start to finish. Take this as a warning to keep you from driving under the influence.
Tiger Woods Arrested for DUI: How Did it Happen?
Tiger Woods is one of the world’s most successful golfers, and spent years topping lists of the highest-paid athletes in the world. He started his professional golf career at age 20, and soon became a household name. Yet his fame didn’t protect him from a DUI charge – instead, it ensured that the world heard about it.
The Tiger Woods Florida DUI arrest happened close to 3 a.m. on a Monday morning. Although it wasn’t clear right away what he was under the influence of, Woods was clearly intoxicated. Officers didn’t even have to pull him over – they found him passed out on the side of the road in his Mercedes-Benz. One turn signal was still blinking, and the engine was on. The car had slight damage on the driver’s side, although it wasn’t clear what had caused the damage.
He was in custody for the next eight hours. He quickly released a statement about the incident.
Woods said alcohol wasn’t involved in the situation at all. He claimed that it was an unexpected reaction to medications prescribed to him. He also said, “I fully cooperated with law enforcement, and I would like to personally thank the representatives of the Jupiter Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office for their professionalism.”
The arrest happened just nine miles away from his multi-million-dollar Florida estate, and only three miles from his restaurant The Woods. Woods had recently had back surgery to combat leg and back pain. That explains why he had prescription painkillers at the time.
However, the fact that the drugs were prescription, and his claim to have not expected the reaction, weren’t enough. They didn’t change the fact that he was guilty. Soon, a dashcam video that shed new light on the Tiger Woods DUI was released.
— Tellitmore (@tellitmore) March 18, 2018
Dashcams Don’t Lie
The dashcam video showed a profoundly disoriented Woods, who didn’t even know where he was. Police described his speech as slurry and slow. Although the audio is difficult to hear, viewers can make out Woods telling officers that he was headed to Jupiter, Florida. But later saying that he’s on his way to Orange County from L.A. Eventually, he simply told officers that he didn’t actually know where he was.
He struggled throughout the field sobriety test; swaying when asked to walk heel-to-toe, and forgetting what he was doing when asked to recite the alphabet.
His obvious intoxication combined with his answers to police questioning led to a DUI charge and arrest. He told officers he hadn’t consumed any alcohol, but that he had taken medication. And the 41-year-old golf star blew 0.00 on two Breathalyzer tests. But, his system was rife with non-alcoholic intoxicants.
In addition to being arrested for a DUI, he was also cited for an improper stop. That is, parked on the side of the road with the motor running and blinker on.
The Toxicology Report
If it wasn’t alcohol, what was it that made Woods so intoxicated behind the wheel?
The Tiger Woods DUI was drug-related, as many DUIs are. Even prescription drugs often aren’t legal to drive on.
The toxicology report showed that the golfer actually had five different drugs in his body. The drugs included sleeping pills, painkillers, and one of the active ingredients from marijuana.
Among the painkillers was hydrocodone (an opioid to combat pain), and a similar drug called hydromorphone. He also had taken Alprazolam, an anxiety drug commonly known as Xanax. In addition to Zolpidem, a sleeping pill more often called Ambien. Finally, his system had THC in it: the psychoactive component of marijuana.
Medical marijuana was legal in Florida at the time of the arrest, and Woods claimed to have prescriptions for the other drugs. However, no matter how you look at it, the combination of driving and all those drugs was dangerous and illegal.
A DUI Plea Deal
One benefit of Woods’s fame and fortune was having access to high-quality legal advice. After the DUI charge and arrest, he entered a strategic plea deal.
Woods agreed to plead guilty to the reckless driving charge, and to join a diversion program that would wipe his record clean of the charge. This deal involved dropping the DUI charge down to the less-severe reckless driving charge, in exchange for the guilty plea and the program.
After the diversion program, Woods would be able to request that the reckless driving conviction get expunged from his record. The program involved paying a $250 fine plus court costs, a year of probation, DUI school attendance, and 50 hours of community service.
Woods was also required to go to a workshop. There he listened to victims of DUI accidents tell how someone else’s poor decision permanently changed their lives. When Woods agreed to join the 4-year-old program, it had already seen thousands of defendants.
The conviction of a reckless driving charge was much better for Woods than a DUI conviction. For a DUI, Woods faced owing a fine of $500 to $1,000. Also, having his car impounded and even facing potential jail time. On top of that, he likely faced probation without a driver’s license for at least six months, up to a year.
— A Content TV (@acontentv) January 29, 2018
The Rehab Process
However, Woods soon decided that the diversion program was not enough to give him the help he needed. Later that year, he checked into a rehab program, seeking treatment for an addiction to prescription painkillers — just like the ones he was on during the DUI arrest.
The 28-day rehab program was a part of his efforts to maintain custody of his two kids. Woods’s custody agreement with his ex-wife stated that he could lose his 20 percent custody if “caught up in a scandal.” The DUI arrest surely counted as a scandal.
Woods booked the whole male inpatient wing of the Jupiter Medical Center for his treatment. This wasn’t his first visit to rehab, either. He’d checked into an Arizona treatment center in 2010, also, to combat addictions to Ambien and Vicodin.
Soon, Woods publicly stated that he had completed the drug treatment program. Time will tell whether or not it was enough to keep him away from future DUI arrests.
Could it Happen to You?
Tiger Woods, one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, couldn’t buy his way out of a DUI arrest. Even though he had top lawyers to help him reach a strategic plea deal, Woods paid for his crimes. It also did severe damage to his reputation when the world read, “Tiger Woods Arrested for DUI.” He even risked losing custody of his children.
It could have been much worse. Woods easily could have hit and killed someone while driving intoxicated. That would have led to more serious charges and almost-certain jail time. He might consider himself lucky that his car was the only thing damaged, and not himself or somebody else. Still, the arrest was easily preventable.
If Tiger Woods can get arrested for a DUI, you can too. Unless you can afford a top-level lawyer, you might not even be able to reach the same type of plea deal. And, of course, the damage from a DUI can be irreversible – many of these accidents lead to injury and death.
Being famous, rich, and successful can’t keep you from being arrested if you drive under the influence. The only real prevention strategy for a DUI arrest is never driving intoxicated. Education is an important form of prevention. Check out our tools and resources to learn how you can stay away from a DUI, and what to do if you’re charged with driving under the influence.
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