Lack of Evidence Means Tiger Woods Unlikely to Be Prosecuted for Intoxicated Driving

December 14, 2009 by David S. Seltzer

As a South Florida drunk driving criminal defense attorney, I have been avoiding writing about Tiger Woods. It seemed like there was more speculation than actual evidence showing that he was under the influence when he crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant Nov. 27. But last week, new information was released showing that Woods was unlikely to face any intoxicated driving charges. According to a Dec. 7 article from the Associated Press, the FHP trooper who responded to the accident requested blood test results to see if Woods was intoxicated, but prosecutors denied the request because there was insufficient evidence. This news means that police and prosecutors simply won’t have the breath or blood test evidence necessary to bring a solid DUI case against Woods.

In Florida, you can be charged with DUI for driving while intoxicated by alcohol, prescription drugs, street drugs or some combination of those. According to the article, a witness who was likely Elin Nordegren, wife of Tiger Woods, told the trooper that Woods had been drinking, and had legal prescriptions for both Vicodin and Ambien. Both are drugs with sedative effects, and doctors say neither should be mixed with alcohol. (As I noted recently, Ambien is not on Florida’s list of substances that are illegal to take before driving, although this may change.) However, no evidence I know of suggests that Woods had actually taken the drugs that night, and the prosecutor’s office apparently decided that the evidence of alcohol intoxication was weak or nonexistent.

In fact, this Dec. 9 article from Central Florida News 13 says Woods did not even have a smell of alcohol, which would strengthen any case against him. A former Orange County DUI prosecutor interviewed in the story said he thought “the judge would laugh [prosecutors] out of the courtroom” if they tried to subpoena medical records without witnesses or stronger evidence. As a Fort Lauderdale intoxicated driving criminal defense lawyer, I’d like to add that the only reported evidence that Woods was intoxicated was the word of his wife. Reports suggest that Nordegren was angry with Woods at the time, and subsequent reports of his infidelity suggest that she may be still. This gives her a motive to lie, making her an unreliable witness. This is far from sufficient to support a case without additional breath or blood test evidence, field sobriety tests or even a trooper’s documented observations of intoxication.

To win a DUI conviction in Florida without a blood or breath test reading, prosecutors must show that the accused was “under the influence” of alcohol or certain specific drugs. This is a vague standard that’s difficult to prove, even when the evidence is stronger than the word of an angry spouse. As a Miami-Dade DUI criminal defense attorney, I routinely advise clients to plead not guilty and defend intoxicated driving cases without a breath or blood test. Even if nobody was harmed, a first charge of driving under the influence has serious consequences in Florida, including potential jail time, probation, a six-month license suspension, vehicle impoundment and hundreds of dollars in fines. This puts a criminal charge in your record, can cause serious trouble at work and will certainly cause and an immediate increase in your auto insurance rates. When you’re facing penalties that serious, it only makes sense to mount a strong defense with help from an experienced Orlando drunk driving defense lawyer.