Why do so many athletes drive drunk? This question is often asked by many sports fans and non sports fans alike. It is not only superstars that find themselves faced with the implications from a DUI case, but everyday people as well. In the off season and in some cases during the season, athletes are arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While under the Influence (DWI). The Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach law firm of Berman & Tsombanakis, LLC, has many years of experience handling DUI cases, as well as Reckless Driving and Traffic Citation cases.
Basketball, Football and Baseball players, as well as many other high profile athletes and entertainers are often arrested for DUI. It seems like at least once a week, one of the national sports stations or entertainment shows, are running a story on a new DUI case and a celebrity. DUI is a very common criminal charge in South Florida for both celebrities and non celebrities. DUI’s and South Beach seem to be synonymous at times. There are often speed traps and DUI checkpoints leaving South Beach as well.
There have been accusations over the years that athletes and famous people are targeted as they leave establishments on South Beach. No one can argue with the fact that many athletes often opt to drive themselves to and from parties, instead of renting limousines or personal drivers. Many ask, why not call a cab after you leave an establishment to take you home. Why not hire a personal driver or limousine, both are a lot less expensive than defending a DUI case both in court and with the management of their respective leagues and teams. Most would say, “I was ok enough to drive home….”, but when faced with an officer in the rear view mirror and a breathalizer in their face, the situation changes. Athletes like many ordinary citizens leaving parties, don’t believe that they are drunk and they feel that they can drive home with ease.
Just after the start of the NFL Season and after winning a Monday Night Game for the Atlanta Falcons, Michael Turner, a running back for the Falcons was arrested for DUI in Gwinnett county a suburb of Atlanta. He was pulled over after going out to a night club to celebrate the teams victory. About a week prior to that, Jason Kidd was arrested for DWI in New York after allegations surfaced that he was under the influence when he crashed his SUV in the Hamptons, this past summer. Kidd was arrested days after signing a new contract with the New York Knicks. Kidd stated to the media that he intends to fight these charges to the fullest extent of the law. Kidd, is just the most recent high profile athlete to be arrested on said charges. In 2009, Donte Stallworth, a star football player who at the time played for the Cleveland Browns was charged with DUI Manslaughter on Miami Beach.
Stallworth had gone out to a birthday party with friends around 2:00 a.m. on South Beach. Party goers in South Florida are known for their very late arrivals to night clubs and many clubs do not close until 5 or 6 in the morning. Stallworth had a few drinks and was only at the party for an hour. He then went on to a friend’s room that was in the same hotel as the party and stayed there for approximately another hour. Allegedly, Stallworth did not have any drinks while in the hotel room. From there he drove home and went to sleep.
Around 7:00 a.m., Stallworth woke up hungry and decided to go out for an early breakfast after finding his refrigerator empty. As he was coming around the bend on the MacArthur Causeway, the victim, Reyes was running across the Causeway on his way from work when Stallworth hit him. Stallworth immediately stopped and tended to Reyes and called 911 for help. Hours later, Stallworth was told that Reyes had died. Initially, he was not charged with DUI Manslaughter. However, after his blood test came back, he was charged and months later he accepted a plea deal in lieu of trial. He stated that the Reye’s family had suffered enough and that he did not want to put them through a trial. This plea was taken against the advice of his lawyers and family who wanted him to go to trial, especially when evidence surfaced, that would have likely exonerated him of the charges. Stallworth received one month in jail, followed by eight years of probation, lifetime driver’s license revocation and was suspended from the NFL for one year.
DUI is defined in detail in Florida Statute 316.193. Anyone driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or above maybe guilty of DUI. DUI’s (DWI) are very serious cases and some of them result in the death of the drivers that are involved. In many cases it is the victim in the other car, that ends up dying but there have been many cases over the years, where the defendant in the DUI case ends up dying as well. DUI is a first degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine. Usually the higher the blood alcohol level, the stiffer the penalties. As exhibited in the Stallworth case, if the case is a DUI Manslaughter, then even greater penalties are invoked. Many first time misdemeanor DUI offenders are given probation and some receive jail time followed by probation. The probation comes with many conditions, including but not limited to, revocation of driver’s license, fines, DUI classes, random urinalysis for alcohol and drugs, and community service.
DUI manslaughter cases have been the target of many advocate groups over the years. Groups such as MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers) have fought tirelessly over the years to reduce the number of DUI cases and deaths. Mothers, fathers and entire families work with groups such as MADD in order to bring awareness to the dangers of this crime. No matter how often DUI tragedies are shown on television, we continue to see them happen each and every day.
If you or a family member have been arrested for DUI (Driving Under the Influence), or any other crime anywhere in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, or Palm Beach County, please email or call one of the lawyers at the Criminal Defense Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC. at (954) 764-6099 or (954) 728-8885. We will be happy to discuss your case with you at length and chart the best course of action and put forth the best and most aggressive legal defense for you.