To anyone who has ever acquired a rushing ticket, the decision of the investigation into Tiger Woods’s car crash in February may appear odd.
Despite the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s dedication that Woods drove well above 80 miles per hour in a 45 m.p.h. zone, he was not given a ticket or charged with reckless driving. Law enforcement officers didn’t conduct subject sobriety checks or get hold of a search warrant for a blood take a look at or toxicology report.
This week, at a information convention to announce the outcomes of his division’s investigation, Sheriff Alex Villanueva stated his officers had performed a thorough investigation and handled the well-known golfer as they’d anybody else.
“Now, I know there is some saying that somehow he received special or preferential treatment of some kind,” Villanueva stated. “That is absolutely false.”
Some legal protection legal professionals within the Los Angeles space who often characterize purchasers accused of reckless driving or driving beneath the affect questioned whether or not the Sheriff’s Department pursued its case in opposition to Woods as aggressively because it had pursued circumstances in opposition to others.
“I know how law enforcement works there, and this one is curious,” stated Stephen Sitkoff, a legal protection lawyer who spent a decade working within the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
There are three key parts of the investigation to think about:
Why didn’t Woods get a rushing ticket?
Tiger Woods was driving at the very least 40 m.p.h. above the posted velocity restrict when he misplaced management. But no one truly noticed him driving that quick — a main element beneath California regulation. His approximate velocity of about 84 to 87 m.p.h. in the beginning of the crash was recorded by the automobile’s occasion knowledge recorder, identified colloquially because the black field.
California’s automobile code locations a sturdy emphasis on needing a witness to ticket any individual for rushing.
“In order to issue a citation, you have something to indicate — an independent witness or an observation by a peace officer,” stated James Powers, the captain of the Lomita Sheriff’s Station, which dealt with the investigation of Woods’s crash.
Had Woods been issued a quotation primarily based on the readings from the information recorder, Powers stated and specialists agreed, there was a good likelihood a choose would have thrown the case out.
“We have gotten accustomed to this very false presumption, which is a computer said so, so it must be true,” stated Anthony Falangetti, a legal protection lawyer in Long Beach.
Falangetti reeled off a listing of how the information recorder might be challenged if utilized by itself as proof: The knowledge recorder might have been programmed improperly, its estimates might be inaccurate and the speedometer within the automobile might be calibrated incorrectly.
“There are all sorts of reasons why that circumstantial evidence isn’t taken for granted by the sheriff’s department,” he stated.
Why wasn’t Woods charged with reckless driving?
Section 23103 of the California Vehicle Code states that any individual is responsible of reckless driving in the event that they drive with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Driving 40 m.p.h. over the velocity restrict on a winding, downhill street arguably meets the standards for reckless driving. In a bizarre quirk of the regulation, it would even have been simpler to cost Woods with reckless driving, a misdemeanor crime that holds the opportunity of jail time, than to provide him a rushing ticket, as a result of the California automobile code doesn’t require witnesses to cost somebody with reckless driving.
Captain Powers, nonetheless, stated there was no proof of reckless driving. “For reckless driving, you have to have multiple violations in conjunction with one another — like multiple unsafe lane changes, passing vehicles in an unsafe manner, kind of like road race stuff — and that did not exist here,” he stated. “Therefore, reckless driving is not appropriate.”
But a variety of legal professionals who’ve defended purchasers charged with reckless driving disagree.
“The D.A. could easily get a conviction for reckless driving based on the black box alone,” stated Hart Levin, a Los Angeles lawyer who focuses on D.U.I. protection. “And even if the black box were somehow not deemed reliable, the accident reconstruction would show the car going in excess of 70 m.p.h. when it hit the tree.”
Patrick Carey, a legal protection lawyer and former deputy district legal professional, additionally wonders why Woods was not charged. “I personally have handled cases with much less egregious facts where my clients have been charged in court with misdemeanors,” he wrote in an e mail.
But whereas it’s potential Woods might have been charged, Carey stated he didn’t suppose that a much less well-known particular person would essentially be charged beneath the identical circumstances.
That highlights a elementary however simply ignored a part of the justice system: Thousands of single-vehicle crashes happen daily and regulation enforcement authorities have huge latitude in how arduous they determine to pursue circumstances.
Why wasn’t Woods checked extra completely in regard to driving beneath the affect?
The Sheriff’s Department didn’t get hold of a warrant to attract blood from Woods to check whether or not or not he was beneath the affect of medicine or alcohol when he crashed.
“Without the signs of impairment, we don’t get to the point where we can actually author a search warrant and develop the probable cause to get that, and execute that search warrant — so that did not happen,” Captain Powers stated.
Several pages of the 22-page official crash report are devoted to laying out the steps sheriff’s deputies took to analyze whether or not Woods was impaired:
Field sobriety checks couldn’t be carried out due to Woods’s accidents.
The first deputy on the scene didn’t scent alcohol, and there have been no open containers or prescription medicines within the automobile.
While being extracted from his automobile, Woods responded to questions directly, his speech was not slurred and his eyes weren’t bloodshot or watery.
The firefighters who handled Woods on the scene stated his pupils didn’t present indicators of “narcotic analgesic influence.”
Video obtained from Woods’s lodge on the morning of the crash didn’t present him swaying or staggering, and he drove away from the lodge safely.
The lodge’s valet and valet service supervisor didn’t discover something unsafe or uncommon.
Woods was interviewed on the hospital and there have been no indicators of impairment.
Someone who was with Woods all through his time in Los Angeles, together with the morning of the accident, stated they didn’t observe Woods consuming alcohol or taking any prescription medicines. This particular person’s identification is redacted within the report.
Four years in the past, Woods pleaded guilty to reckless driving, after he was discovered asleep on the driver’s wheel on the aspect of the street. He blamed the episode on the interplay between prescription medicines he was taking on the time.
But simply because Woods has beforehand pushed whereas impaired by prescription medicines doesn’t imply the Sheriff’s Department might use that to acquire a warrant to check his blood.
“‘He did it before, therefore he did it again’ is fundamentally not a constitutional basis for anything,” Falangetti stated. “We are principally opposed to that kind of accusation in criminal law.”
Still, the Sheriff’s Department might have pushed more durable to check Woods’s blood, particularly contemplating there was at the very least minor proof of prescription tablet use. According to the crash report, an “empty plastic pharmaceutical container” with no label was present in a backpack that was resting within the brush subsequent to Woods’s automobile.
“If it was one of my clients, not anybody special, I think they would have been given a blood test,” Sitkoff stated.
Would pursing the case have been worthwhile?
Woods suffered extreme accidents within the crash and finally, the Sheriff’s Department could merely imagine it’s not obligatory to hunt extra punishment. When requested why Woods was not cited for rushing, Captain Powers stated, “Part of it was because of the circumstances that he endured throughout the collision.”
Woods didn’t hit one other automobile, and no one else was damage. A rushing ticket would almost certainly have been thrown out, a reckless driving case could have been tough to show and there have been no apparent indicators that Woods was illegally impaired.
Under the circumstances, struggling devastating leg accidents that maintain the opportunity of ending Woods’s golf profession is probably a a lot worse punishment than being charged with a misdemeanor.
“I think that, based on the physical punishment he suffered, it is more of a case of ‘What’s the point in charging him?’” Carey stated.